GOP cadre launches rare effort to force immigration debate in House

A small cadre of House Republicans is scheming to force a debate on immigration reform, bucking GOP leaders in an effort to reignite the stagnant DACA debate on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., called a legislative Hail Mary, launching a rare attempt to gather 218 signatures, constituting a simple majority of the lower chamber, on a discharge petition to bypass normal procedures to bring a bill to the House floor for consideration.

“The member-driven process that we have started today is one that does not seek to accumulate power. It does not seek to impose any one solution,” Curbelo told reporters during a news conference at the Capitol. “On the contrary, it seeks to diffuse power, and in doing so to empower every member of the House so they can play a meaningful role in this process.”

Assuming all 193 House Democrats join the effort, Curbelo needs 25 House Republicans to sign onto the petition. So far, 17 Republicans have joined the coup.

“It is time for Republicans and Democrats to come together on what can be a bipartisan solution, but we have to first have the debate. This will force the debate,” California Republican Rep. Jeff Denham, the architect of the effort, said. “We feel very importantly that this has gotta happen now and we’re willing to drive that vote.”

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Newscom
Rep. Carlos Curbelo speaking at a news conference on immigration reform at the Capitol, May 9, 2018.

Curbelo and colleagues are striving to put legislation on the floor paving the way for an open debate of four competing pieces of immigration reform, kicking off a process known as “Queen of the Hill,” where the bill with the most votes beyond a simple majority becomes the prevailing piece of legislation.

“This is about us being able to take a vote on all of the bills,” Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, said. “And that way members of Congress can be held accountable for a yes or no vote.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan has expressed opposition to the Queen of the Hill approach, warning that he doesn’t want to send legislation to the president that he could potentially veto.

“We continue to work with our members to find a solution that can both pass the House and get the president’s signature,” Ryan’s press secretary AshLee Strong said.

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.

“The objective here is to have a debate and to have votes. We cannot predetermine the outcome,” Cubelo said. “This is the best chance any of these bills have of coming to the floor.”

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