May 17, 2018, 12:17 PM ET

House Republicans on brink of forcing immigration debate despite GOP leaders' opposition


At least 20 House Republicans have now signed onto a petition to force a freewheeling immigration debate in the House, moving moderate Republicans toward the brink of driving a divisive issue to the House floor — one GOP leaders prefer to avoid ahead of the midterm elections.

Reps. John Katko, R-N.Y., and Dave Trott, R-Mich., signed on to the measure, known as a discharge petition, Wednesday. Trott is one of several retiring Republicans who have endorsed the petition, in addition to moderates facing tough reelection bids and others in districts with large Hispanic populations.

House Speaker Paul Ryan spoke out against the move again this week, calling it a “big mistake” after meeting privately with House Republicans on Wednesday.

“Like I said last week, obviously, we do not agree with discharge petitions,” Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters afterward. “We think they're a big mistake. They disunify our majority.”

Organizers of the petition need 218 signatures - five more Republicans, if all 193 Democrats back the measure - to kick off a debate and votes on four competing immigration proposals that deal with DACA recipients and border security.

If the effort secures 218 signatures, the motion to discharge is placed on a calendar and ripens for consideration on the second or fourth Monday of the month after a seven legislative day layover.

The discharge motion is debatable for only 20 minutes, split equally between proponents and opponents of the measure. If the motion to discharge a bill is adopted, the House would immediately consider the bill itself.

In this case, legislators are hoping to advance H.Res 744, bipartisan legislation introduced in March. The bill would allow the full House to debate as amendments a range of proposals for DACA, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s “Securing America’s Future Act.”

House Republican leaders have worked for months to advance the Goodlatte bill, but concede they are far short of 218 Republican votes needed to send it to the Senate.

With the threat of the discharge petition, GOP leaders are scrambling to fine-tune the Goodlatte bill in a desperate effort to build a Republican majority.

Ryan acknowledged that members of the GOP majority “fall into different camps” on immigration – but he said they want a solution on DACA and border security.

“That's why we met with the president, to advance a strategy that addresses the issues that our members have, the concerns they have, but doing it in a way where we actually have a process that can get a presidential signature, and not a presidential veto,” Ryan said. “And we're working with our members on that.”

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Two more bills that would advance to the floor during the debate are the bipartisan “Dream Act of 2017, introduced by Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.,” as well as the “USA Act of 2018,” fronted by Reps. Will Hurd, R-Texas, and Pete Aguilar, D-Calif.

Ryan would also be able to choose any other single piece of legislation to plug the fourth slot in the Queen of the Hill approach.

Under Queen of the Hill rules, if more than one alternative obtains a majority, the winner is the one that receives the greatest number of votes. It is unclear if any of the competing measures would garner a majority.

For months, Ryan has warned his colleagues against advancing a measure he thinks President Trump would veto.

“We want to advance something that has a chance of going into law, where the president would support it,” Ryan said.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, is cheering for the discharge petition to succeed.

“We believe that this bipartisan bill that the members have put together, who share the value of protecting the DREAMers, is the bill that would win if they would just give us a vote, give us a chance.”

House Republicans used a discharge petition successfully in 2015 to force a vote to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.

As they battle a revolt on their left flank, GOP leaders are also struggling with House conservatives over the farm bill. Some hard-right members are demanding a floor vote on a conservative immigration bill from Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, in exchange for their support of the farm bill, which is expected to pass on Friday, approving billions in farm subsidies and nutrition programs including food stamps.

There is no time limit to gather 218 signatures on the discharge petition, but an incomplete effort expires at the end of the 115th Congress next January.

ABC News' Ben Siegel contributed to this report.

News - House Republicans on brink of forcing immigration debate despite GOP leaders' opposition

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  • Prophet With Honor

    It is obstruction of governmental operations to block Congress from doing its job

  • jake

    If Ryan is so concerned whether Trump will sign the bill or not why doesn't he just let Trump write the bill, then give it to Ryan and he can then present Trump's bill it to his GOP members in congress where they will vote "yes" then pass it back to Trump to sign his own bill. That's the way to do it Paul! Glad you're retiring oh by the way. The purpose of congress is not to give the president what he wants. It's to show the president what congress wants.

  • mrphilbert

    Ryan is expressing his usual If we actually do something good that people want, rest assured, drumpf will veto it refrain. Ryan is too chicken to serve as speaker or to even hear reasoned debate.

  • SFprogressive

    Come on, Repubs, let's get something done and help out the dreamers. You can fund Don's wall and in a few years defund it when it proves to be worthless. Also, how about a guest worker program,,,we have a labor shortage and if we bring Mexican workers or others in with documents we solve two problems at the same time,

  • Dr. Gurnicus Blanstonius

    DACA reflects the split personality of the Republican party. Republican voters admit the DACA kids should be taken care of and allowed to stay as citizens... but.... Republican voters dislike immigrants, have an irrational fear (thanks to decades of GOP indoctrination) that their economic woes are due to immigrants (illegal or otherwise) and think immigration is a huge, growing problem despite overwhelming facts to supporting otherwise.

  • Kobrakai7272

    How dare they try to have a real and substantive debate on immigration. Don't they understand that their party and their president only support phony baloney discussions on immigration?!

  • JohnC

    Holy cr@p! Bipartisanship is starting to break out? This has to be squashed now!

  • fmd160

    Ryan said "They disunify our majority."
    LOL funny. They're all (dis)unifying their majority!!!

  • Loue Whose

    no worries, as always - they will work tirelessly to serve the people
    often as much as three days a week (but not that often)
    keeping their cushy jobs won't be a factor
    they serve ONLY the tax payer
    not the potential voter

  • supersenior

    Great Job Donald and your Tea Party nuts. Bite the hand that feeds you. Who do you think all these right wing conservative farmers have been voting for? The farmers will have to consider voting for a Democrat if they want any meaningful progress with immigration. Trump also hurting farmers with all this trade nonsense. If a moderate Democrat runs against these Tea Party guys who are anti-farm they might have a chance of defeating those GOP congressmen who thought they had a safe seat.

  • Kajsa Williams

    What? A Republican dares to contradict the GOP?

  • Prophet With Honor

    As a lame duck Ryan is openly waving the flag of surrender to Trump.

  • JZ.

    The politicians we have in this country know nothing about debating and everything about masturbating.

  • MrSoul

    A lot easier to do the right thing when you aren't worried bout re-election. Hope it happens.

  • Paul Iannello

    hang on there kids we're gonna push this till after the fall elections...much better chance at a good result....

  • AG99

    At least some members of Congress look like they actually want to attempt to do their jobs. It's a start.

  • Opinion4

    Haha so the arguments against it are: 1) It would be terrible for our party to show the inner confusion on this topic and 2) because the bully-in-chief would not like it. Perhaps the Republican lap dogs need to re-evaluate their priorities to the country.

  • Brandon Jones

    In other words, we don't agree on this issue so it isn't worthy of our time. Ryan is scared this will expose the opinions of Republicans and give the voting public a true idea of who they are voting for.

  • Jim Botto

    It's good to see that there are some Republicans who will stand with the American people on something that over 80% of the population supports. Why the leadership and others want to stand with the 20% is beyond me.

  • Hugh Mungus

    Yes lets talk about the 12-20 million illegals in our country

  • error_does not compute

    Ah, the rank and file parting ways with leadership to actually try to accomplish something.

  • Prophet With Honor

    This concept of a monolithic party is the reason nothing gets done.

  • Blue Wave

    Don't think for one minute any of those in the GOP are doing this out of care and concern for immigrants, rather they likely have a good number of immigrants in their districts and are only in self-preservation mode with the mid-terms coming up. They see the writing on the wall and they're panicking.

  • flnycus

    Republican leaders have never wanted to sort out immigration. They need people to hate on, people to blame, just like the nazis in the 1920s at the start. They need these daca kids to be in limbo, they need undocumented people who have been here 30-40 yrs and want to pay tax etc to stay in the shadows, they want employment law to be lax, they want the cheap labor for their corp buddies. They need an enemy to show uneducated people who to blame for their ills. Nothing to do with tax cuts for the rich and under funding of OUR SERVICES from OUR TAX MONEY. Blame immigrants, the illegal ones and the legal ones you can spot easily by the color of their skin or accent. Blame them for it all.

  • Krimson

    Why would the GOP Led Congress and the GOP POTUS do a single thing to remove the greatest Campaign Tool they have??? As long as their voters FEAR illegal immigration, and that FEAR brings them to the voting booths, the GOP will not do a single dang thing.


    Why would they kill their golden goose???

  • Alex

    The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S.744) addressed all these issues, including DACA and border security and passed in the Senate with broad bipartisan support with 68 votes in favor. If only the House had done their job and taken up the measure for a debate/vote.

  • SGNH

    Ryan, it's time for you to realize you are part of a co-equal part of the government NOT Trump's waterboy.

  • dustyrivers ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    "one GOP leaders prefer to avoid ahead of the midterm elections."
    The GOP only has one person to lay blame for this mess on.
    Donald J Trump. He's the one that ended DACA without any plan or clue what to do next.

  • snake

    “Like I said last week, obviously, we do not agree with discharge petitions,” Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters afterward. “We think they're a big mistake. They disunify our majority.”

    What am I missing here? If Ryan has a majority, why hasn't he passed a bill?

  • DK1

    Ryan: "They disunify our majority.” in response to such petitions. Well Paulie, maybe if you and your party chose to look out for the good of this nation, and to be reasonable and moderate, and not expect everyone with an (R) by their name to be in lockstep with your extremist views, they might be more willing to toe the party line. But thankfully, there are at least a few GOPers who still put people and country before party.

  • JohnC

    Sure seems reasonable to at least debate it. Sad when they can't even start to discuss something important.

  • poultrygeist

    Katko is as big a liar as Trump.

  • mollydtt

    Do nothing congress. Avoid commenting congress. Don't want to go on the record as being "for" or "against" congress. Collect paycheck, healthcare and lobby money congress.

  • Suspect Everything

    They need to do this and fix DACA. The consistency of being a do nothing Congress is getting old. You'd think that the GOP would want to stay in power? By not moving DACA into law, the voters will take notice. In the end they'll only have themselves to blame.

  • Prophet With Honor

    Ryan admits it is all about partisan politics. Sad situation when Congress can't even debate something this important.

  • David Tanner

    Should have violated Russian banking sanctions and then maybe he could have been Commerce Secretary and not a criminal. Well one with a record I mean.