Republican members of the House in vulnerable districts began a vigorous effort Wednesday to defy GOP leaders to force a vote that could help keep Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients in the country.
The effort, which needs signatures of a majority of House members to force the vote in the chamber, would allow votes on four different versions of immigration legislation whether leadership wants it brought to the floor or not. The legislation that got a majority and highest number of votes would move forward for consideration by the Senate.
Five Republicans originally signed onto the effort when it was unveiled Wednesday morning. Each represents a district with large Latino populations: Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., David Valadao, R-Calif., Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., Will Hurd, R-Texas, and Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla. Another 12 had signed on by Wednesday afternoon.
If all Democrats signed on to what is called a discharge petition, it would need eight more Republicans to sign on to force a vote.
Denham said Wednesday that he asked Democrats to "hold off" for now, and a Democratic leadership aide concurred, saying, "Democrats are closely watching and waiting to see numbers Republicans will put up before signing."
Denham said at a press conference Wednesday that he was "extremely confident" that they would get the necessary majority vote on the discharge petition. He declined to name any other members he expects to sign.
Discharge petitions can only be brought up certain Mondays of every month when the House is in session, meaning the soonest possible vote would be June 25. If it doesn't have the needed signatures by then, it would have to wait until July 23, with Dec. 10 being the only other plausible date for the rest of the year, under the House's current calendar.
At a press conference on the issue in April, Denham insisted they had the votes necessary for to support a vote on immigration, with 50 Republicans supporting. At the time, he did not commit to moving forward on a discharge petition, saying he hoped House leadership would see they had the support and bring the legislation to a vote themselves.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has refused to grant a floor vote on immigration legislation that includes action on DACA recipients. DACA is an Obama-era program that allows people who entered the country illegally as minors to remain, work and study in the country legally.
AshLee Strong, Ryan's spokeswoman, did not condemn or praise the discharge petition when asked about it Wednesday.
“We continue to work with our members to find a solution that can both pass the House and get the president’s signature," she said.
Two of the bills — the DREAM Act and the USA Act — have been backed by both Democrats and Republicans.
The USA Act provides a path to legal citizenship for DACA recipients while also providing more for immigration enforcement. The DREAM Act provides a path to legal citizenship without increased immigration enforcement.
A third bill, Securing America’s Future Act, has no Democratic cosponsors and includes border wall funding, significant cuts to paths to legal immigration and no pathway to permanent citizenship for DACA recipients. The fourth bill is unnamed, left up to Ryan to choose among other immigration legislation.