The House will finally vote on immigration legislation — with one bill that includes a plan to allow 1.8 million young immigrants who came to the U.S. as young children to obtain a path to citizenship and another that doesn't, Republicans said Tuesday.
The agreement to vote ends — at least for the moment — a war between House Republicans over how to tackle immigration reform.
One group, consisting of GOP lawmakers facing tough re-election fights, will get a vote next week on legislation that would provide a potential pathway to citizenship called a "special visa" for the people brought into the country illegally as minors, known as Dreamers. It would not force them to return to their home countries to apply for the special status.
The other group, largely staunch conservatives, will get a vote on the Goodlatte bill (named for its sponsor, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.), which only provides temporary legal status to Dreamers. They would have to reapply for that status every three years. It does not include a path to citizenship.
The conservative House Freedom Caucus favors the Goodlatte bill, which reformers do not support. The Freedom Caucus has not yet weighed in on if they will support the compromise bill, which Republican leadership was finalizing Tuesday night.
In exchange for a path to citizenship in the compromise, conservatives received cuts to the diversity visa program, a lottery for prospective immigrants, and cuts to family-based migration. The plan would end the ability of immigrants to sponsor married adult children and adult siblings, but they would still be able to sponsor minor children and parents. The amount of new special visas will equal the amount cut from other visa programs.
The Goodlatte bill also includes those limits plus further limits to legal immigration.
The compromise also includes a guarantee of $25 billion for border security, the amount that President Donald Trump said he needs for a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. The Goodlatte bill authorizes the border wall and other border security measures.
The compromise resulted from weeks of negotiations between Republican leadership, the conservative House Freedom Caucus and those pushing immigration reform such as Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., and Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla.
“Members across the Republican Conference have negotiated directly and in good faith with each other for several weeks, and as a result, the House will consider two bills next week that will avert the discharge petition and resolve the border security and immigration issues. The full Conference will discuss tomorrow morning and we’ll have more to share at that point," said AshLee Strong, spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
Curbelo and Denham defied leadership by whipping support for a discharge petition over the past month, which would have forced a floor vote on immigration legislation without leadership approval.
The petition had 216 signatures Tuesday, and Denham said repeatedly that if leadership didn't reach a deal by Tuesday to bring immigration legislation to the floor the petition would have received its required 218 signatures to move forward.
Majority Whip Steve Scalise said a potential deal was likely on Tuesday morning and downplayed the petition's chances while Florida Rep. Dennis Ross, one of a handful of Republicans on the fence about signing the petition, said he wasn't going to do it after receiving assurances from Republican leaders that they would vote on an agricultural guest worker bill.
"The discharge petition has succeeded in pushing this vital matter for so many young people to the forefront," Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., one of the lawmakers who was considering to join the petition, but ultimately chose not to.
But he warned that the petition could easily be revived. "I also remind my colleagues, that while today's deadline for a vote on June 25th has passed, the discharge still has time to gain signatures for a vote on July 23rd. I will continue to keep my options open on what is the best course of action," Newhouse said.
Leadership and the conservative House Freedom Caucus were against the petition. The petition could still force a vote on a series of immigration bills in July.
Denham and Curbelo are considered vulnerable in their 2018 elections because Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won their districts in 2016. Both districts also have large Hispanic populations. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Tuesday night immediately called the effort a "failure."
“If vulnerable members like Carlos Curbelo, Will Hurd, and Jeff Denham can’t get the job done with their party controlling all of Washington, they have no business serving in Congress," said DCCC Spokesperson Javier Gamboa.
Curbelo said the deal was the result of weeks of conversations with leadership, who did not want the petition to move forward with the support of Democrats.
Whether Dreamers would get a special path to citizenship was a fraught issue in talks, as reformers said such a pathway had to be included and leaders of the House Freedom Caucus said they would not agree to any package that included it. The special visa was the compromise landed on in the deal, although it's unclear if members of the House Freedom Caucus will support the resulting bill. In a meeting with members late Tuesday, they only agreed to support voting on the bill on the House floor.
Meadows was vehemently against the discharge petition, saying his caucus feared Republicans joining with Democrats could produce legislation giving Dreamers a path to citizenship without increased border security.