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Immigration Overhaul: Democrats Look to Flip 30 House Republicans

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Democrats are holding out hope that their discharge petition on a comprehensive immigration overhaul bill can still work — or at least be used as election-year ammo.  

House Democrats held a conference call Tuesday to announce their intention to distribute a memo in the districts of 30 House Republicans who have signaled support for an immigration overhaul previously. Democrats are calling on these Republicans, and others, to "put their pen where their mouth is," as Colorado Democrat Jared Polis put it, and sign the discharge petition for HR 15, the companion bill to the Senate-passed immigration bill.  

The discharge petition for the House bill currently has 191 Democratic signatures, meaning nine Democrats still haven't signed on to the effort. There are, however, 200 co-sponsors for the bill, including three Republicans: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Jeff Denham and David Valadao of California. Democrats hope the additional pressure will move Republicans to sign on to the discharge petition.  

"There are enough votes to get this done," said Florida Democrat Joe Garcia. "There is a deaf ear. His name is John Boehner."  

Speaker John A. Boehner repeatedly has said he would prefer to do an immigration overhaul piece by piece. However, with Republicans saying they don't trust President Barack Obama to implement the law as intended, the Ohio Republican admits it would be difficult to move any immigration legislation this year.  

The president has said he will implement elements of an immigration overhaul through executive order if Congress doesn't act, and the Democratic effort to bring the bill to the floor may provide some cover to the president if he does move unilaterally, signaling to Americans that Democrats at least tried to implement an overhaul legislatively before appealing to the president.  

The president held a meeting with faith leaders Tuesday to discuss immigration, and, according to a White House readout of the meeting, Obama "emphasized that while his administration can take steps to better enforce and administer immigration laws, nothing can replace the certainty of legislative reform and this permanent solution can only be achieved by Congress."  

CQ Roll Call polled every House Republican earlier this year on whether they support the immigration principles that GOP leadership brought to them during their yearly retreat . Only 18 Republicans have said they support the principles.  

On Tuesday, CQ Roll Call asked one of the 30 Republicans who is being targeted by Democrats — and who did not initially respond to our poll — Republican Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, whether he supported the principles. Kelly would not give a "yes" or "no" on the principles, opting for a more nuanced position that, yes, he'd like to see some aspects of an immigration overhaul, but, no, this is not an issue that is at the forefront of his mind or the minds of his Western Pennsylvania constituents.  

He said he doesn't feel any pressure to sign the discharge petition, and Democrats probably shouldn't expect any Republican at this point to go along with the effort.  

The 29 other House Republicans currently being targeted include:  

Justin Amash of Michigan  

Mark Amodei of Nevada  

Spencer Bachus of Alabama  

John Carter of Texas  

Jason Chaffetz of Utah  

Mike Coffman of Colorado  

Jeff Denham of California  

Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida  

Sean P. Duffy of Wisconsin  

Renee Ellmers of North Carolina  

Tim Griffin of Arkansas  

Michael G. Grimm of New York  

Joe Heck of Nevada  

Darrell Issa of California  

Sam Johnson of Texas  

Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho  

James Lankford of Oklahoma  

Peter T. King of New York  

Vance McAllister of Louisiana  

Devin Nunes of California  

Steve Pearce of New Mexico  

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida  

Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin  

Aaron Schock of Illinois  

Chris Stewart of Utah  

David Valadao of California  

Greg Walden of Oregon  

Daniel Webster of Florida  

Don Young of Alaska  

Of the 30 members targeted, eight told CQ Roll Call they back the principles: Amodei, Denham, Diaz-Balart, Ellmers, Heck, King, Ryan and Valadao. Pearce, who is also targeted, told us he could possibly support them; Griffin told us he doesn't support the principles; Labrador told us it wasn't the right time; Schock and Young said they were undecided; Carter, Nunes and Ros-Lehtinen declined to comment; and the other 14 — Amash, Bachus, Chaffetz, Coffman, Duffy, Grimm, Issa, Johnson, Kelly, Lankford, McAllister, Stewart, Walden and Webster — did not respond to our repeated attempts to get an answer.