Some House Republicans looking to revive effort to legalize DACA recipients

An effort led by moderate Republicans in the House to bring immigration issues to the floor is gaining steam, and Speaker Ryan appears powerless to stop it.

The majority of the GOP caucus opposes bringing immigration issues up for a vote before the midterms.  But that hasn't stopped about 20 Republicans from signing a discharge petition to bypass the leadership and bring the issue to the floor for a vote.

The Hill:

The unfolding legislative battle is a nightmare for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and his lieutenants, because it exposes a fervent intraparty split in the GOP and pits leadership against many of the politically vulnerable members that are key to saving the Republican majority this fall. 

A pair of GOP lawmakers on Wednesday signed on to a discharge petition that would set up a series of votes on immigration bills on the House floor later this year.  The move came just hours after party leaders pleaded with rank-and-file members to stand down.

Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), a leader of the moderate Tuesday Group, and Rep. Dave Trott (R-Mich.), who is retiring from Congress, both signed their names to the petition, becoming the 19th and 20th Republicans to do so.

Now, just five more Republican signatures are needed to force the immigration votes if all 193 Democrats join the effort.

"We will have more Republicans signing on this week, and a lot more Democrats signing on.  I am confident we all have the votes we need," said Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), who is leading the effort with Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) and Will Hurd (R-Texas).  All three lawmakers are facing challenging elections this fall.

Denham added, "I'm not saying when our timeline is.  I'm saying we have enough commitments to make sure we're going to be successful."

The coming days will see a battle for those remaining five votes.  Denham and retiring Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who are leading the discharge whip operation, will be targeting those who have spoken favorably of the "Dreamer" issue but have yet to sign.

But those same Republicans are being whipped by GOP leadership not to sign.  Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) reiterated during a closed-door meeting with Republicans on Wednesday that such a petition effectively cedes control of the floor to Democrats.

With the chances that the Senate would take up any immigration legislation this term at zero to none – not to mention a certain Trump veto – the reasons for this revolt are obscure.

"We don't want to advance something that won't become law and just get vetoed even if it made it to the president's desk," Ryan told reporters Wednesday.  "We want to advance something that has a chance of going into law that the president supports."

After the petition hit its 20th signature, the top four members of leadership – along with Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) – huddled with both the discharge backers and opponents in separate meetings on Wednesday night. 

Curbelo, Upton and Denham said leaders kicked around some ideas for an immigration bill.  Curbelo emphasized that they aren't on the edge of a deal yet, but described the meeting as "productive" and "moving in the right direction." 

"Clearly we have had a positive impact on leadership and on this institution, because now this issue is being taken seriously," Curbelo told reporters outside of Ryan's office.  "We have our plan, we're sticking to it, but we're willing to see what theirs looks like."

This kind of pressure Ryan and the Republican Party don't need.  With midterms looming and Republicans desperately needing a huge turnout to counter an increase in Democratic voters, immigration is not the issue that Ryan and his team want front and center.  An effort to address DACA could easily lead to lower GOP turnout in key districts, which could threaten any chance Republicans have of hanging on to their majority.