House Republican leaders have at least temporarily blunted an internal rebellion to force votes next month on protecting young undocumented immigrants from deportation while they negotiate with the GOP renegades on an alternate path forward.
But with conservatives and moderates far apart on crucial provisions, there was little sign Wednesday that the warring factions would be able to reach a workable agreement on a compromise immigration bill.
Immigration has exposed deep divisions within the GOP, pitting conservative adherents of President Trump’s hard-line stance against moderates frustrated by inaction. Last Friday, the Republican unrest sank an unrelated farm bill in a blow to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who faces a threat to his leadership from the feuding.
Republican leaders fear that a tumultuous election-year fight over immigration could cost them their majority in November.
The centrists, who are building support for a maneuver called a discharge petition that would force votes on a series of immigration bills, are pushing for a measure that would provide permanent legal status for the young immigrants, known as “dreamers,” including those covered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that Trump has canceled.
But to many conservatives, that would amount to the kind of “amnesty” they have long opposed for immigrants in the country illegally. The bill they favor would instead provide only temporary renewable work permits for DACA recipients.
House leaders have struggled to gather enough votes to pass such a bill after months of internal talks. Now, the discharge petition has brought that effort to a head as moderates push their demands.
A permanent dreamer fix is “essential,” said Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), who filed the petition, after emerging from a meeting with Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and leaders of the GOP’s conservative bloc.
Curbelo said that he and other proponents of the discharge petition remained ready to gather enough signatures to force action next month but that they were willing to hold off temporarily to negotiate a path forward with GOP leaders.