Just hours before the House is scheduled to vote on two sweeping Republican-led immigration bills, President Donald Trump managed to undermine Republicans’ entire legislative process with a simple question: What’s the point?
“What’s the purpose,” Trump tweeted, noting that neither of the House immigration bills will go anywhere in the Senate, where Republicans will need the support of at least nine Democrats to pass any legislation.
And as if on cue, lawmakers seemed to suddenly hit the brakes on one of the two votes slated to take place on Republican-led immigration bills on Thursday: a “compromise” bill between House conservatives and moderate Republicans, and a conservative bill originally introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). Neither proposal was designed to get any Democratic votes, and Republican House members are already preparing for both bills to fail on the floor.
Republican leadership is now debating whether to delay a vote on the “compromise” Republican bill, knowing that it has lost too much support within the Republican caucus. They are still expected to go forward with votes on the more conservative proposal.
House conservatives, particularly those in the House Freedom Caucus, are unhappy with the final “compromise” bill, saying certain border security provisions that were previously promised have been stripped from the final version.
Meanwhile, by Thursday morning, House Speaker Paul Ryan didn’t seem invested in either bill, simply saying the two votes are so members can “express themselves by voting for the policies they like.” The comment is in direct contrast Ryan’s previous statements on the immigration debate, which argued that a Republican-only bill was the surest way to make law.
Therein lies the deep irony in the president’s tweet. For weeks, House Republican leaders, aligned with the White House, have been urging members to abandon an effort that would have forced votes on bipartisan immigration bills through a discharge petition and instead focus on a partisan Republican-only immigration bill.
Ryan and White House officials argued that finding consensus among House Republicans would ensure Trump’s support.
Trump’s White House, which has consistently espoused the most hardline immigration positions, supported this partisan push, knowing that bipartisan pieces of legislation were unlikely to reflect their border security and legal immigration reform demands.
But Trump seems to have identified the fundamental flaw with this kind of approach: A bill designed to only get Republican votes can’t pass the Senate.
And now it seems this is the very excuse lawmakers are using to vote against the final “compromise” legislation.
“There’s a lot of us willing to vote for this bill and maybe walk the plank, but it’s going nowhere in the Senate,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), chair of the conservative Freedom Caucus, said Thursday morning.
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