House Republican leaders are further delaying a vote on a compromise immigration bill, planning to make changes to the legislation for a vote next week.
The measure was originally scheduled for a vote Thursday evening. GOP leaders had decided early that afternoon to push it off until Friday because members still had questions about the contents of the bill. But the disarray extended well beyond confusion over the bill.
The Republican Conference met late Thursday afternoon for more than two hours to discuss the legislation. Multiple GOP lawmakers said authors of the bill walked through its contents and members raised concerns about issues the bill doesn’t address.
Many members requested the addition of a provision to require employers to use the E-Verify database to check the legal status of their employees.
That is expected to be added, along with language creating a guest worker visa program.
“We just finished a very well attended [meeting] where it gave our entire conference an opportunity to have a full discussion on these very important issues,” Rep. Jeff Denham told reporters in a brief statement after the meeting.
The California Republican, who had been a leader in negotiations of the compromise bill representing the views of moderate Republicans, was joined by Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker and Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, who had negotiated for conservatives.
“While we’ve all been in negotiations for the last several weeks — we feel like we’ve continued these good discussions on — but two new issues came up,” Denham said.
“We’re having a discussion about E-Verify and ag jobs — two more very important issues that we have yet to discuss so far — so we’re going to spend a weekend, delay a vote until next week and see if we can come to a compromise on those two issues,” he added.
Neither Walker or Meadows, both of North Carolina, addressed the press.
As the three typically talkative lawmakers walked away from the cameras — ushered away from reporters by Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s spokeswoman AshLee Strong — a Roll Call reporter followed them and tried to ask further questions. They all remained silent.
Specifically Roll Call was inquiring about how Denham could claim the E-Verify and agricultural guest worker issues were “new” and not previously discussed.
Those two issues have long been part of the immigration negotiations, but GOP leaders had decided to leave them out of the compromise bill in an effort not to load it up with too many issues. Leadership instead promised members a separate vote in July on E-Verify and the guest worker program.
But that wasn’t enough for some members, many of whom raised those concerns throughout the week in private meetings and in conversations with reporters.
It apparently took Thursday’s conference meeting — two full days after the GOP whip team formally surveyed members on their views — to crystallize the absence of those provisions as problems for passing the legislation.
Earlier Thursday, the House rejected a separate immigration bill favored by conservatives in a 193-231 vote that included mandatory E-Verify and a guest worker program.
Republican leaders had been predicting for months that the measure House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte introduced in January could not pass the House.
While it didn’t, the support for the bill was higher than many predicted it would be. Several lawmakers suggested that was because the Goodlatte bill had E-Verify and the agricultural guest worker provisions.
Watch: Ryan Says He Doesn’t Know if an Immigration Bill Can Pass