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Discharge Petition Signatures Held Back Amid Immigration Negotiation Progress

Denham says talks between GOP leaders and conservatives are positive

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., says that negotiations between GOP leaders and conservatives on immigration issues are headed in a positive direction. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., says that negotiations between GOP leaders and conservatives on immigration issues are headed in a positive direction. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Jeff Denham said Wednesday he plans to hold back the final signatures needed to activate a discharge petition that would force a vote on four immigration measures affecting so-called “Dreamers” — saying that negotiations between GOP leaders and conservatives are headed in a positive direction.

Earlier in the week California Republican expected to have 218 signatures on the petition by the end of the week.

“As we are continuing to make progress and still meet the timeline of the petition, we will continue to hold off on filing the final votes, or the final signers,” Denham said.

The petition would force a vote on a queen of the hill rule that would set up votes on four immigration measures — with the top vote-getter prevailing. It had 205 signatures — 21 from Republicans — as of Wednesday evening. Just 13 more signatures are needed for one of the signees to be able to call the queen of the hill rule up for a vote on June 25.

Denham, who says he has enough members prepared to sign the petition to reach the required 218 threshold, spoke with reporters after a Wednesday afternoon meeting with GOP leaders, conservatives and fellow moderates.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise were among the leadership participants.

Florida GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo, the member who formally filed the discharge petition, participated in the meeting with Denham on behalf of the moderates.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows and members Jim Jordan, Scott Perry, Morgan Griffith and Jeff Duncan were among the conservative participants.

Denham said informal conversations were likely to continue into Wednesday night with another formal meeting scheduled for Thursday morning. The House is scheduled to depart Thursday afternoon for a week long Memorial Day Recess.

Participants in the negotiations expressed optimism an agreement could be reached before they depart for the recess.

But perhaps real deadline for negotiations to conclude is June 7. Rep. John Katko said that’s the day they would put up the final signatures if there is no agreement.

“We absolutely have the signatures,” the New York Republican said. “We’re bargaining in good faith here and we’re giving them an opportunity to come to an agreement and if they don’t, we’re going to do what we have to do.”

Katko said it’s still possible another Republican or two would sign the discharge petition Thursday.

A special two-hour Republican Conference meeting is scheduled for the morning of June 7 and leadership would probably like to present a plan for floor action during that session.

GOP leaders have committed to a vote the third week of June on a conservative immigration measure by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte.

Changes to that bill as well as a second alternative measure have been part of the negotiations, as well as the type of rule that would be used to bring those bills to the floor.

The major policy disagreement remains how to deal with a population of young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers.

Moderates want a permanent solution rather than a temporary renewal process for work permits provided under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that the Goodlatte bill proposes. Conservatives say they’re not willing to create a special path to citizenship for Dreamers like the moderates’ preferred proposal does.

Watch: Ryan — Gambit to Bring Immigration Bills to Floor Is ‘Big Mistake’

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