A rebel band of moderate Republicans in the House are on the verge of teaming with 200 Democrats to sidestep GOP leaders and advance legislation granting amnesty to people brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Led by Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Cal., and Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., at least 20 Republicans are on board with what’s known as a discharge petition. If a majority of House members sign a petition in solidarity on a given issue, they can force the issue on the House floor in defiance of leadership in the majority party.
“That allows them to leapfrog over leadership and take control of the House floor, and (House Minority Whip) Steny Hoyer has promised them 200 Democrat votes. Right off the bat, you’re scratching your head. Why would 25 Republicans give the floor over to the Democrats to pass a bill,” said Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va.
House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy are imploring Republicans not to join the discharge petition. Brat, whose 2014 primary stunner over then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor was due largely to his tough stance on immigration, says Ryan and McCarthy know that this move could be lethal to the party in November.
“This is the one issue that has the capacity to keep our base at home in the elections coming up, which are just so critical,” said Brat, who is a prime target for Democrats in Virginia’s seventh congressional district.
If the discharge petition succeeds, supporters would then proceed to the “Queen of the Hill” strategy, which would allow for votes on four different measures that would address the fate of people in the country illegally but who are eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. The bill getting the most votes would then advance to the Senate.
One option is the Goodlatte bill, which is favored by immigration hawks because it confers legal status but not a pathway to citizenship for DACA enrollees and does not grant legal status to those eligible for DACA but failed to enroll. It would also limit chain migration, scrap the diversity lottery, tighten internal enforcement, mandate E-Verify to screen all job applicants and beef up border security.
But that bill doesn’t have enough votes to pass, and with 200 Democrats champing at the bit, it’s a clean amnesty bill that would attract the most votes.
“The one with the more Democrat votes wins. The American people didn’t give the House and the Senate and the White House to Republicans in order to do a giant, huge amnesty bill,” said Brat, who says the amnesty plan would extend a lot farther than just the DACA enrollees.
“The Democrats would have an all-out amnesty bill, which grants amnesty to about four million folks and then ten million folks over ten years without any border control, without any E-Verify to make sure you’re having legal hiring, without taking any account of chain migration,” said Brat.
Brat says this discharge petition tactic shows the Democrats and their GOP allies cannot win an open debate and they must resort to other tactics to advance their agenda.
“Democrats know they can’t win politically. They know they can’t win in the public realm on the exchange of ideas, so they try to do it behind the scenes with these tricky little procedures,” said Brat.
Brat says he’s surprised that 25 Republicans have not yet signed on to the discharge petition, noting “they have plenty more ready to roll” but wonders whether Ryan and McCarthy warning them about the possible midterm calamity caused some to back away from the idea.
The debate took on a new dimension this week when Democrats savaged President Trump for allegedly referring to illegal immigrants as “animals.” Even when they learned the president was specifically discussing members of the Latin American MS-13 gang, known for sadistic murders and sex trafficking, some, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, still chided Trump for questioning the humanity of the gang members.
“When you have these people on record battering children over the heads with baseball bats and these gruesome activities, I think the left has to agree something has gone wrong with the humanity of that person,” said Brat.
Even if the discharge petition succeeds, the effort will not result in the bill becoming law. The legislation would still require 60 votes to pass in the Senate and even then it would face a certain veto from President Trump.
While Brat hopes the issue won’t tank Republican hopes in the midterms, he says this issue and many others present a stark choice to voters in November.
“If you want more federal government running your life, vote Democrat, and if you want to return to all the principles that made the country great in the first place, vote for that,” said Brat.