The petition-drive to force a vote on granting citizenship rights to Dreamers is bordering on success after two more Republicans signed on Tuesday, leaving backers just shy of the threshold.
Reps. Tom Reed and Brian Fitzpatrick added their names, bringing to 23 the number of Republicans who are now on board. If backers can reach 25 GOP signatures plus get all Democrats, they’ll be successful.
So far 190 Democrats have signed. Just three members of their caucus, all from Texas, have yet to sign.
“By putting our name on that piece of paper, we’re that much closer to creating the pressure to create the leverage that is going to bring this to a head to have a debate in the House on the issue,” Mr. Reed, New York Republican, said in a video he released touting his signature.
“At the end of the day this is about solving that issue,” he said.
Yet he and fellow Republicans who have signed the petition are defying their party’s leaders, who say the drive amounts to a betrayal of the GOP majority.
Known as a “discharge petition,” the drive is a way for lawmakers to circumvent the majority-party leaders who control the floor agenda. Successful petition drives are rare, chiefly because they represent a major black eye for those party leaders.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan has urged lawmakers not to sign the petition — but he has not taken any steps to punish those who are signing.
That’s enraged immigration-crackdown activists and some conservatives, who say the rebels are undercutting President Trump’s message on immigration.
The petition drive would create a process for bringing four immigration bills to the floor. One would be a broad amnesty or a pathway to citizenship for millions of Dreamers, while another would couple such an amnesty with promises of a future study on border security.
A third bill would be an enforcement-heavy proposal led by Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, which would not grant citizenship but a lesser legal status to Dreamers. The fourth proposal would be up to Mr. Ryan.
Under the petition drive, whichever of the four gets the most votes wins. That virtually guarantees success for the amnesty-plus-border-study option, which has the backing of many Democrats and a key group of Republicans.
But Mr. Trump says he’ll reject that. He’s still holding out for something that matches his own priorities, which include changes to legal immigration, construction of a border wall, faster deportation of illegal immigrants, but also an amnesty for up to 1.8 million Dreamers. That’s far more generous than the Goodlatte bill, but less than what Democrats are looking for.
Despite that middle-ground position, he’s been unable to win support. Conservatives say he’s too far along the amnesty spectrum, while Democrats object to his border security and legal immigration changes.
“Unless it includes a wall, and I mean a wall, a real wall, and unless it includes very strong border security, there’ll be no approvals from me,” Mr. Trump said in an interview broadcast Thursday on Fox News. He also said he wants the legal immigration changes, such as an end to the diversity visa lottery that gives away 50,000 immigration passes a year based on chance.
Mr. Reed, though, insisted Thursday he’s actually helping the president reach his goals by signing the petition drive. He said Mr. Trump has called for a solution for Dreamers, young adults who were brought to the U.S. as minors by their parents, and that’s what will emerge from the process.
House lawmakers are now on vacation, but both Republicans and Democrats expect the petition drive to succeed soon after Congress returns June 5. At that point it starts a procedural clock that would force a floor debate the final week of June.
Conservatives said that gives Mr. Ryan and his team the next four weeks to try to figure out a way to head off a mess.
“We are trying to get a focus and an intensity,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican and a leading conservative. “We better get this immigration figured out.”
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