House Republicans have abandoned a plan to vote on a Democrat-sponsored bill to terminate the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency after the bill’s authors said they and their colleagues would vote against it.
But GOP leaders are still planning to hold a vote on a resolution by Louisiana GOP Rep. Clay Higgins expressing the House’s support for all ICE officers and personnel and denouncing calls to completely abolish the agency.
The vote on Higgins’ resolution will occur Wednesday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said. It will be brought up under an expedited procedure known as suspension of the rules, which requires two-thirds support for passage.
The other bill Republicans had been planning a vote on would have terminated ICE within a year of Congress enacting “a humane immigration enforcement system” to be designed by a commission the legislation would establish. The measure was introduced Thursday by Progressive Caucus Co-Chairman Mark Pocan and members Pramila Jayapal and Adriano Espaillat.
McCarthy said “it was very shocking” they would introduce a bill and then turn around and say they’d vote against it after he offered to bring it to the floor for debate.
Watch: Pence: Democratic Leaders Must Stop ‘Spurious’ Calls to Abolish ICE
Pocan, Jayapal and Espaillat had said they’d vote against their bill because Republicans were going to bring it up for political messaging purposes, not actually with intentions to pass it. They said they stood by the policy.
McCarthy suggested that Higgins’ resolution accomplishes the same goal in putting Democrats on record on whether they want to abolish ICE.
Speaking minutes before McCarthy, Majority Whip Steve Scalise said he wasn’t sure what had been decided or scheduled regarding the two ICE measures but that he supported putting Democrats on record on the matter.
“I know there is a lot of concern about what the Democrats are saying about their interest in abolishing ICE,” the Louisiana Republican said. “I think it’s a radical idea. It seems like they’re having an internal fight over where they really stand on it.”
Asked if Democrats saying they wouldn’t vote against their own bill was a reason not to vote on that one, Scalise said, “It’s one thing for them to say that, but to vote against your own bill on the House floor looks like you’re just playing political games with our national security. And I don’t think that’s a responsible place to be.”
In a sign that the ICE messaging votes were still fluid, McCarthy had not mentioned either on his weekly schedule released Friday evening.
A GOP aide said discussion had continued into the weekend and a final decision on scheduling was made Monday.
But GOP leaders had been monitoring the abolish ICE movement for weeks. McCarthy had brought it up during a GOP conference weeks ago as something they should keep an eye on and during last week’s conference meeting floated the idea of a floor vote.
When the Progressive Caucus members released their bill Thursday, Scalise brought up the idea of voting on that specific bill in various meetings held that day.
Later Thursday McCarthy told reporters that the House would have a debate on the Democrats’ bill before the August recess.
Democrats reacted quickly to that news saying they would vote against the bill and turn the debate into a discussion on family separations at the border and lack of legislation to permanently address that.
Some rank-and-file Republicans had questioned the wisdom of holding the messaging votes on ICE, particularly after Democrats said they’d vote against their bill. But others felt it still would have been useful to have Democrats on record voting against a measure they introduced.