Push for House Immigration Votes on Hold as Trump Joins Talks

(Bloomberg) -- A leader of moderate House Republicans’ bid to force votes on immigration bills said President Donald Trump has joined talks seeking a compromise and that the lawmakers’ petition drive is on hold for now.

GOP Representative Jeff Denham of California told reporters Thursday that the discussions are nearing an agreement that would provide permanent legal status for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, popularly known as "dreamers."

The goal is to produce a compromise bill by a June 7 meeting of House Republicans on immigration, he said.

“We are prepared to deliver the rest of the votes if the discussion breaks down,” Denham said, referring to the lawmakers’ petition. Group members Tom Reed of New York and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania signed the petition Thursday.

Moderate Republicans and Democrats are close to 218 signatures -- a majority of the House -- required to advance immigration bills that GOP leaders don’t want to bring to the floor. As of 11 a.m. Thursday, the petition had 212 signatures.

Success on the petition would be a huge blow to lame-duck House Speaker Paul Ryan, who opposed the effort. Yet the moderate Republicans, many of whom are facing tough re-election campaigns, said they were tired of waiting on leaders’ immigration promises and worry the issue could cost them their seats.

The conservative House Freedom Caucus has stridently opposed the moderate effort. Last week the Freedom Caucus voted down the House Republican farm bill in order to gain leverage in the ongoing immigration talks.

The group wants the House to pass some version of the Securing America’s Future Act, H.R. 4760, a conservative bill written by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican. That bill would provide temporary protection for dreamers while constricting legal immigration by limiting immigrants’ ability to sponsor family members to come to the U.S. and by eliminating the diversity visa lottery.

Democrats say the House would have the votes to pass the Dream Act, H.R. 3440, which would grant legal permanent resident status to the young undocumented immigrants, if the bill were brought to the floor. Conservatives say passage of that bill, or a related measure that would add border security spending, would anger the Republican voter base.

Trump, speaking Thursday on the "Fox & Friends" television show, reiterated his stance that he won’t sign an immigration bill unless it funds a physical wall on the southern border.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.