The Republican revolt over immigration: what’s going on?

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The news of a Republican revolt in the House around a potential vote on DACA/immigration is heating up. The fact that a group of Republicans are going over Paul Ryan’s head is huge news. But this story comes with a lot of congressional jargon, so here’s a short guide to explain what’s going on.

Quick Context

When Trump cancelled DACA back in September, he said he wanted Congress to create legislation to “resolve” the DACA program. That immediately put over 800,000 young people in limbo. Ever since, lawmakers have been trying to bring immigration legislation to the floor for a vote.

Keep in mind that 87% of Americans say these young people should be allowed to stay in the U.S. This is important to remember as it explains this story somewhat. In a country as divided as ours is right now, this level of agreement is astonishing.

Now, only the Speaker of the House (currently Paul Ryan) can bring legislation to the floor for a vote. Ryan has been described as “squeamish” when it comes to any legislation regarding immigration.

Furthermore, Republicans have long used the Hastert Rule when they control the House. The Hastert Rule says that the GOP will only bring legislation to the floor for a vote if 1) it is legislation drafted by the Republicans and 2) a majority of the Republican caucus supports the legislation.

The Democrats have proposed bill after bill to take care of the DACA kids but it doesn’t matter when the Republicans are using the Hastert Rule. The bills Democrats draft will never see the light of day until they can take back control of the House.

Where this story becomes interesting is that there are Republicans who have proposed legislation to tackle DACA. Some genuinely believe these kids are good for America and should be able to stay and others are looking at extremely tough re-election races in a year when there’s a lot of talk of a Democratic wave.

Where we are today

Leading the fight to get immigration legislation onto the floor of the House are a group of moderate Republicans, who are looking at extremely competitive races this November. Now they themselves can’t bring legislation to the floor because they need Paul Ryan’s sign off, and Ryan has said no.

So to force a vote, this group of Republicans is going to use a discharge petition. If they can get 218 signatures on the discharge petition (and the signatures can come from any party), they can force a vote.

Where it gets tricky is that discharge petitions can only be considered on very specific days on a congressional calendar. I promised you this guide would be short so I won’t go into the details (although you can read a great explanation here), but suffice it to say that the only day left this year when the discharge petition could be successful is Monday, June 11.

The moderate Republicans pushing this effort knew they could get all the Democrats to sign, and have convinced over two dozen GOP to sign. They have 215 signatures (as of Wednesday, June 7 evening). They only need 3 more.

If the discharge petition is successful, what will happen is that another obscure House rule called the “Queen of the Hill” takes effect. What the discharge petition supporters are doing (to get all those signatures) is not just bringing one piece of legislation to the floor, but four different bills about DACA and immigration to the floor. Each will be debated and voted on. Whichever of the four bills gets the most votes will be Queen of the Hill. Then, there will another round of votes to see if the Queen can pass the House and become King.

A summary of the bills: (source)

The first bill up is the conservative immigration plan backed by House GOP leaders and authored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). Then the House considers the Democrats’ DREAM Act, backed by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA). Next in the queue is whatever bill House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) elects to to put forward. Finally, there’s a plan supported by Reps. Jeff Denham (R-CA), Will Hurd (R-TX) and Pete Aguilar (D-CA). That bill bolsters border security and grants legal status to many DACA recipients.

Needless to say, not only Paul Ryan, but the rest of the Republican leadership in the House has been doing everything it can to stop this discharge petition from being successful. Earlier today, they held a huge meeting for the caucus to work on an immigration bill — the hopes being that they would make enough progress to discourage other moderate House Republicans from signing the discharge petition.

It is anyone’s guess if the discharge petition will get those final signatures between now and Monday, but it’ll be one for the history books if it succeeds.

What you can do

If your House Representative is a Republican, call them immediately and tell them you support the discharge petition and an immediate solution to protect the DACA kids. You can find your Rep’s contact information at Contacting Congress.

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1 reply

  1. Nice explanation of a very confusing process! Thanks!

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