House Republican Rebels May Be Close To Forcing A Vote On DACA
The effort by a group of Republican rebels to force a vote on a DACA bill is moving closer to success, but that may end up being the easy part.
The effort by a group of Republican rebels in the House of Representatives to force a vote on a bill to extend protection to the beneficiaries of the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program appears to be moving rapidly toward success, but it’s still unlikely that it will result in a bill that can make it to President Trump’s desk:
Thursday is a critical day for both the future of hundreds of thousands young undocumented immigrants and House Republican leadership, as an insurrection led by Republican moderates is about five signatures away from forcing a House vote.
What’s called a discharge petition — a rare procedural move that bypasses the committee and leadership process to put a bill directly on the floor (more on that below) — is that close to reaching the number of Republicans that would be needed, assuming all Democrats sign on as well. A floor vote on a series of immigration bills would likely result in the passage of a bill that would offer DACA recipients a path to citizenship along with a package of border security funding and policy changes.
The effort has gotten so close that it is spooking leadership and conservatives, who are seeking ways to fight back that only further put pressure on House leadership.
As I noted last week, this group of Republicans is seeking to force a floor debate and vote on a DACA bill via a method called a Discharge Petition. Under this procedure, a bill that is otherwise being blocked from going to the floor by a House committee or by the refusal of House leadership to put a bill on the floor can be brought to the floor if a petition is signed by a majority of the membership of the House. That would essentially require 218 members of either or both parties to sign the petition, meaning that it would need the support of a not insignificant number of Republicans and pretty much the entire House Democratic Caucus in order for this petition effort to succeed. According to reports, there are now twenty Republicans, and a sizable number of Democrats, who have signed the petition. If they can get five more Republicans, and the remaining Democrats, to join them then they would be able to force the Speaker to put the matter on the floor for an up-or-down vote.
If this effort succeeds in getting the matter to the floor, it would be something of a rebuke of the House leadership, which has blocked a DACA bill from coming to the floor and clearly wants to do the same with regard to this petition. Earlier this week, for example, Speaker Ryan, who will be leaving Congress at the end of his current term, urged Republicans not to sign the petition because it would harm the party ahead of the midterms. Ryan also apparently told Republicans that he was working with the White House on a DACA bill even though there’s absolutely no sign that this is the case or that it will be presented to Congress at any point in the foreseeable future. In addition to Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is trying to tell Republicans that allowing the discharge petition to go forward would hurt the party in the fall midterms. The extent to which either of these arguments have been successful in stopping the rebellion can be seen in the fact that the number of Republicans who signed on to the petition increased after Ryan and McCarthy made their pleas to House Republicans.
Even if the Discharge Petition does succeed, of course, that doesn’t mean the DACA problem is solved. For one thing, it’s still not entirely clear which version of DACA reform the House would be voting on in the event the petition gets the signatures it needs. There are several versions of such a bill that have been floating around the House of Representatives, and not all of them are acceptable. One bill put forward by hardliners, for example, would provide protection to a limited number of Dreamers and would permanently block them from ever applying to become American citizens. It would also require funding for the President’s border wall, place limitations on so-called “chain migration,” and make other changes to existing immigration law that would have the impact of severely limiting legal immigration. Other bills are more moderate but unlikely to get significant enough Republican and Democratic support to pass the House.
Even if a DACA bill makes it through the House, it’s by no means clear that it will be able to get through the Senate without significant revisions. In that regard, it’s clear that none of the hardliner bills that have been tossed around the House of Representatives would have a chance of succeeding in the Senate. One of the major stumbling blocks in that regard would be over the issue of the eventual eligibility of DACA beneficiaries to apply for citizenship, of course, but it’s also likely that Senate Democrats would object to significant funding for Trump’s silly border wall or to measures that would significantly reduce legal immigration as provided for under current immigration laws. Additionally, the reality is that both Democrats and Republicans are likely looking at the DACA issue specifically, and immigration more generally,as an issue they can use in the General Election in November.
Finally, of course, even if a DACA bill somehow made it through the House and Senate intact it’s not at all clear that it would have the President’s support. The last time this issue was before Congress, the White House was threatening to veto any proposal that didn’t match the outline of what had been proposed by the President in January. So far the White House has not commented on the ongoing discharge petition battle but it has also not indicated that it is willing to stand down from the previou veto threat. So, in the end, all of these efforts may be for naught.