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House Republicans Get Closer to Deal for Immigration Floor Votes

Agreement could pave way for farm bill passage as well

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., and his allies are getting closer to a deal on immigration votes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., and his allies are getting closer to a deal on immigration votes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House leadership appears to be narrowing in on a deal with conservative and moderate Republicans for a floor vote on at least two immigration bills — an agreement that if reached could unlock the votes needed to pass the unrelated farm bill.  

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said he’s optimistic that an agreement can be reached within the next 24 hours on the parameters for floor debate on immigration legislation. The North Carolina Republican and some members of his conservative caucus have been withholding their support for the farm bill in an effort to reach such a deal.

GOP leaders said they’re willing to bring the conservative immigration measure by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte to the floor but there is still not a deal yet, Meadows said.

“The devil is in the details,” Meadows said, noting that timing is among the things that would still need to be worked out.

Another major detail that appears to be in negotiation is a vote on a second bill that would be more appealing to moderate Republicans. Those members have been gathering support for a discharge petition for a so-called queen of the hill rule that would set up votes on four immigration bills, including the Goodlatte bill.

Some of the bills the queen of the hill rule would authorize have the support of mostly Democrats, which is why GOP leaders want to quash the discharge petition and strike a separate deal on immigration votes with members of their conference.  

Rep. Jeff Denham, one of the moderates who’s been leading the discharge petition effort, said he’s been in talks with Meadows and leadership about a second bill that could get a vote along with the Goodlatte measure, which is expected to fail.

“Yes, we’re negotiating a second bill that would get 218 votes in the House,” the California Republican said.

Denham said he’s never had a problem with the Goodlatte bill coming up for a vote and thus doesn’t as part of this potential agreement.

“I don’t think it has the votes, but I again think that everybody should be held accountable to their votes, to the American public and to their own districts,” he said.

The second bill is likely to be much more narrow that the Goodlatte bill, which addresses a several legal immigration policies in addition to providing for a renewal process for young undocumented immigrants who have temporary relief from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“It’s my belief that we need a narrow bill with a permanent fix for Dreamers and border security,” Denham said. “I would love to address more issues than that but I think in trying to expedite something to the floor and get it to the president to sign into law soon — and certainly before the midterms — I think is critical.”

Meadows is meeting with Freedom Caucus members Thursday afternoon to discuss options before going back to leadership with what they’d be willing to do.

Denham said there is a goal to come up with the general make up of a bill within 24 hours but said work on details and gathering the votes would need to continue beyond that. 

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