Posted: 7:27 am Thursday, June 21st, 2018
By Jamie Dupree
After months of internal wrangling over how best to deal with illegal immigration, the House is poised on Thursday to debate and vote on two immigration reform bills written by Republicans – but because of fissures inside the GOP – it’s possible both measures may go down to defeat on Thursday afternoon.
“This is very good compromise legislation,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, who was struggling to convince more conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus to back a bill that some GOP lawmakers denounced as “amnesty” for illegal immigrant “Dreamers.”
“The failed policies of previous administrations have catered to open border radicals and left Americans less free, less safe,” said Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH), one Freedom Caucus member reluctant to vote for a more moderate GOP measure.
The internal bickering boiled over on the House floor on Wednesday afternoon, when Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) appeared to engage in an angry back-and-forth with Speaker Ryan, during a vote on the House floor.
FOX NEWS: Livid Rep. Mark Meadows yells at Speaker Paul Ryan on House floor pic.twitter.com/gYUEQ6Y0wn
— Chandrima (@chandrimasonai2) June 21, 2018
With no Democrats expected to back either of the GOP immigration bills – a rupture inside the GOP on these plans will lead to only one thing – defeat.
“It tells us volumes about today’s GOP that a harsh, inadequate immigration bill written only by right-wing anti-immigration Republicans is condemned by Freedom Caucus radicals as too soft,” said Norm Ornstein, a Congressional analyst at the American Enterprise Institute.
The first bill is the more conservative measure, drafted mainly by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the head of the House Judiciary Committee.
“I’m a ‘yes’ ‘yes,'” Goodlatte said of how he would vote on both bills. “I want 218 votes.”
But the chances of getting a majority on either bill seemed slim – moderates think the conservative bill is too harsh, while conservatives think the more moderate measure doesn’t do enough.
The measures delve deeply into a number of subjects, how to treat illegal immigrant DACA “Dreamers,” reform the asylum system, a host of changes in interior immigration enforcement laws, ending the diversity visa lottery, reforms for temporary agricultural workers, measures to address so-called “sanctuary cities,” more aggressive efforts to return unaccompanied children and other migrants, and much more.
The Goodlatte bill runs 414 pages – the other plan backed by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Rep. Carlos Curbelo totals 299 pages.
The House debate comes a day after a rare retreat by President Trump on the issue of immigration, as he announced a hastily drawn executive order, designed to stop the forced separation of illegal immigrant families.
But Democrats said while the order stopped children from being taken away from their parents, it left many questions unanswered.
“The president’s order does not solve this problem”,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). “It does nothing to reunify the 2,300 children who have been taken from their parents.”
“As a country, we are better than this! Separating children from their parents,” said Rep. Al Lawson (D-FL)
Make no mistake: Today’s executive order fails to address or end this moral crisis. It merely replaces the unacceptable evil of family separation with the unacceptable evil of child detention. https://t.co/eNPDcNhokM
— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) June 20, 2018
Republicans also chided the White House.
“It is about time the Administration takes action to address this issue, but more needs to be done,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL). “I want to make sure this practice is ended, unequivocally, and I strongly believe we still must take legislative action.”
“The President did the right thing by signing an executive order to keep families together at the border,” added Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL).
But despite all the talk, nothing on that seems likely to make it through the Congress anytime soon – as a possible double defeat for the GOP in the House on immigration reform seemed a strong possibility.
And it was obvious that a visit by President Trump on Tuesday night to the Capitol had done little to unify Republicans, as the President took another jab on Wednesday as Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), after mocking Sanford during the GOP meeting.
“I have never been a fan of his!” the President said of Sanford on Twitter.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) June 20, 2018
“This was a classless cheap shot,” said Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI).
The House convenes at 10 am – debate will begin soon after on immigration. Final votes are expected after 5 pm EDT.