Politics

House Heads Toward Wednesday Immigration Vote Without Agreement on Changes

Republicans starting to talk about a more narrow bill on family separation

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., says he expects the House to vote on an immigration bill this week regardless of whether Republicans can agree to further changes and pass it. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Ongoing negotiations over a House GOP immigration bill have yet to produce an agreement on changes that will secure enough votes to pass the legislation, but Republican leaders are preparing for a vote this week regardless.

“Wednesday we could see Goodlatte 2 on the floor,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise said.

The Louisiana Republican was referring to legislation that various factions of the GOP conference negotiated in recent weeks also called the compromise bill. House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte is a lead author on the compromise bill, as well as a somewhat more conservative bill that the House rejected last week.

House Republicans had originally planned to vote on the compromise bill last week as well but decided to pursue additional changes to see if it could get enough votes for passage, which it has lacked.

Specifically there was an agreement to look at an amendment marrying a provision to require employers to use the E-Verify database to check the legal status of their employees with the creation of a guest worker visa program for agriculture and other industries where labor is in short supply. Both were included in the failed Goodlatte measure.

“By tomorrow morning it should be clear which changes if any are agreed to by the parties that have been negotiating through the weekend,” Scalise said following a Monday evening meeting with his whip team.

Several whip team members confirmed negotiators were expected to continue discussions Monday night to see if they could reach an agreement to present to GOP leaders and then the larger GOP conference, which meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday. The conference meeting should reveal the path forward, the members said. Scalise and the whip team members also said they expected the conference to begin discussions Tuesday about a more narrow bill — in the event the compromise measure fails — that is focused on a legislative fix for immigrant families that have been separated at the border. But Scalise didn’t want to predict what a narrow measure would look like, saying House Republicans were still focused first on the larger bill.

“If there can’t be an agreement on how to bring everybody together on Goodlatte 2 then we’ll go from there,” he said.

‘How many votes’

Scalise said it is “correct” that the group of negotiators had not yet reached a consensus on changes to the compromise bill. Some of the negotiators themselves confirmed that too.

“We want to see how many votes it gets,” California Rep. Jeff Denham said.

Goodlatte said there won’t be a deal until it is determined it can get 218 votes (or more likely the 215 needed to pass the House with full attendance of the current membership of the House).

“We’d love to tell you what’s going to happen before it happens, but we don’t know yet because we’ve got a conference to hear from our members tomorrow,” the Virginia Republican said.

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said there’s no agreement but there is a specific proposal the negotiators are focused on in regards to E-Verify and the guest worker program. The North Carolina Republican declined to provide details.

“I think everybody is seeing how many more votes that would actually have,” Meadows said.

Speaking a few hours later after the Freedom Caucus’ weekly meeting, Meadows said the E-Verify and guest worker additions would move some of his caucus members from “no” to “yes.” Some members remain opposed to the bill, he added, but declined to say how many.

Scalise brought up another issue that conservatives have raised as a concern, which is that the bill as written would allow young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, known as Dreamers, to eventually sponsor visas for their parents who illegally brought them to the country.

Meadows said “that still remains a stumbling block” for many conservatives but noted that it’s not been part of the negotiations over changes to the bill.

“Moderates said that that was a no go,” he said.

Florida Rep. Ted Yoho, a Freedom Caucus member, said he couldn’t support the compromise bill if it is not changed to prevent Dreamers from being able to sponsor their parents.

If an agreement on changes can be reached Scalise said the whip team will circle back with members to see how that will affect the vote count but that he doesn’t expect them to conduct another formal whip on the bill.

Asked if there will be a vote this week regardless of whether the bill can pass, Scalise said, “I would expect you will see votes this week on immigration.”

Watch: Ryan Says He Doesn’t Know if an Immigration Bill Can Pass

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