THE BIG IDEA: Look at how Kevin McCarthy spent his Wednesday to understand how the immigration debate could rip apart the Republican coalition.
— The House majority leader began the day by pleading with Republican lawmakers at a closed-door meeting not to sign onto a discharge petition that would force an up-or-down vote on protecting “#dreamers,” whose status has been in jeopardy since President Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program last year.
McCarthy warned members that passing a moderate immigration bill would make it much easier for Democrats to win control of the House — by depressing conservative base turnout and derailing the rest of the GOP agenda.
— Disregarding this appeal, Reps. John Katko (N.Y.) and David Trott (Mich.) became the 19th and 20th Republicans to endorse the effort a few hours later. These vulnerable incumbents feel pressure back home to help the young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. Assuming every Democrat signs on, which is expected, that means just five more Republicans are needed.
— McCarthy then headed over to the White House for a roundtable on California’s role as a “sanctuary state,” which lets local governments withhold some information on immigrants from federal authorities. During the televised meeting, Trump urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate a Democratic mayor for obstruction of justice because she tipped off the immigrant community about an impending raid in February. “You talk about obstruction of justice — I would recommend that you look into obstruction of justice for the mayor of Oakland, California, Jeff,” Trump said.
The president also touted how aggressively he’s stepping up deportations of violent criminals and gang members. “We have people coming into the country — or trying to come in, we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country, you wouldn’t believe how bad these people are,” Trump said. “These aren’t people. These are animals.”
The language echoed the speech Trump used to announce his presidential campaign three years ago next month, in which he said Mexico was sending rapists and drug dealers to the U.S. It is just the latest example of the president using his bully pulpit in a way that guarantees immigration will be a top-tier issue in the midterms.