House Democrats are brushing off the looming threat of a vote on a controversial proposal to abolish Immigrations and Customs Enforcement that Republicans believe will be a “political lose-lose” for Democrats.
Democrats say they won’t support the bill sponsored by nine of their own members that Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, has said he intends to bring up for a vote on the House floor.
“No Democratic member will vote for it so it’s just a dumb move,” said a Democratic leadership aide, adding the bill doesn’t technically abolish ICE. “Regardless, the Republican effort falls flat.”
Reps. Jim Costa, D-California; Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas; and Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois, said they did not approve of the measure in its current form. They called for oversight and possible changes to ICE, but not abolishing it.
“I believe if they bring it up, it’s a political stunt, and my view is there will be an overwhelming amount of Democrats that vote against it, because Democrats do not favor open borders,” Costa said.
Jackson Lee said she would welcome bringing the bill up through the proper measures, meaning it would be considered by multiple committees, debated and amended before reaching the House floor. But if House leadership send it straight to the floor, she said, it’s “transparently a political move.”
“I’m going to throw it back to them,” Jackson Lee told McClatchy. “Mr. Speaker, you know full well that we need to go through regular order, and what may happen next week — I’m not going to judge it right now, because I’m going to ask for the Republicans to be adults.”
Republicans feel they have a winning move with the vote. Jack Pandol, regional press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee, called it a “political lose-lose” for Democrats, and said it could discredit the party on immigration issues.
“You either vote yes and show how extreme you are on this issue, or you vote no and you alienate your base,” Pandol said. “Even the authors of the bill came out and said they couldn’t vote for it.”
“It just demonstrates how the Democratic Party writ large has become so extreme on immigration,” he added.
Republicans are trying to flip a talking point Democrats have used against them recently. In the past month, two GOP comprehensive immigration bills failed in the House, a policy of President Donald Trump’s administration prompted the separation of immigrant families and pictures of children in cages, and the Trump administration lost a court case trying to end California’s so-called sanctuary state law, which limits state and local law enforcement from cooperating with immigration enforcement officials.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, was quick to criticize those failures.
“Republicans folded and destroyed the best chance Congress had to provide a bipartisan, permanent legislative fix — and all they have to show for it is a failed bill of staggering cruelty that would have sold out Dreamers, families, asylum seekers and children at the border,” Pelosi said after the second immigration bill failed.
The bill at issue, sponsored by Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisconsin, does not guarantee abolishing ICE right off the bat, though it is a stated purpose of the bill, which reads: “To establish a Commission tasked with establishing a humane immigration enforcement system, terminate Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and for other purposes.”
Though it has become a rallying cry for some Democrats since the controversy erupted over immigrant children being separated from their parents at the border, it has yet not slipped into the mainstream. Neither Pelosi nor Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, have endorsed the idea.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, did signal she could be open to the idea in an interview with MSNBC.
“I think there’s no question that we’ve got to critically re-examine ICE and its role and the way that it is being administered and the work it is doing,” she said. “And we need to probably think about starting from scratch.”