One House Republican source joked about the moderates’ flameout in a comparison to their conservative colleagues. At least when members of the Freedom Caucus “promise to blow things up,” the source said, “by God, they blow things up.”
The deal is a huge victory for GOP leadership, who feared the potential passage of what staffers called “amnesty lite”—a bill that would effectively grant citizenship to hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants with little to no border-security element. Moreover, they avoided the unpredictability of a free-wheeling immigration debate ahead of midterm elections.
“Members across the Republican Conference have negotiated directly and in good faith with each other for several weeks, and as a result, the House will consider two bills next week that will avert the discharge petition and resolve the border-security and immigration issues,” said AshLee Strong, a spokesperson for Ryan. “The full conference will discuss tomorrow morning and we’ll have more to share at that point.”
Conservatives also claimed victory on Tuesday night, securing a deal in which legislation they’ve lobbied for for months—Goodlatte’s—would see floor time. The bill, which includes a narrow path to legal status for undocumented immigrants and tougher enforcement measures, won’t pass muster with a majority of the conference. But conservatives will get their vote with the assurance that leadership’s “compromise” package is also unlikely to pass.
Democrats reacted to the news that moderates had “caved” with resignation. “We got played,” said one Democratic member who signed the petition, and requested anonymity to speak candidly. “Now they’re back to show votes. We’re done trying to help.”
Republicans will meet Wednesday morning to continue ironing out the details of consensus legislation, the kind of bill that has bedeviled them for months now, but will ostensibly reach the floor in its final form next week. Yet with fewer Democrats willing to offer assists, and conservatives placated by a vote on their own legislation, it’s largely unclear just whom this compromise bill will be designed for.
The evening capped yet another tumultuous turn in Republicans’ quest to pass immigration reform. Although the issue has haunted the party for years, President Donald Trump injected new urgency into the debate by making provisions such as a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border a staple of his campaign. In his State of the Union address in January, he implored lawmakers to assemble legislation that addressed his chosen “four pillars” of reform: a path to citizenship for 1.8 million “Dreamers” and those undocumented immigrants who would otherwise qualify for the DACA program; a $25 billion trust for a wall along the Mexican border; ending the visa lottery in favor of a merit-based immigration system; and limiting family reunification to sponsorships for spouses and minor children only.