GOP Leaders Struggle to Find Resolution on Family Separations

(Bloomberg) -- House Republican leaders are struggling to put together a partisan bill to prevent immigrant families from being separated at the border despite pleas from some of their members to work with Democrats on a bipartisan approach.

With elections a little more than four months away, leaders are searching for a path forward after the party suffered two embarrassing failures to unite on broader immigration measures.

Jeff Denham, a moderate Republican from California who led an effort to force votes on a variety of immigration bills, said his constituents want action, and after seeing Democrats fail in the past and Republicans come up short twice this month, he’s convinced that the next effort must engage both parties.

“We have a crisis looming this summer and this is something that’s going to be a bipartisan solution,” Denham said. “It’s always important to have a strong message, but when you’re in the majority, you’re expected to lead. Ultimately we’re going to be held accountable on whether or not we solve this crisis.”

Yet one GOP aide said Republican leaders still are making it their priority to cobble together that can pass with a Republican-only majority. Any attempt at a resolution will have to wait until after next week’s congressional recess.

Representative Joe Barton, a conservative Texas Republican, said even a narrow bill to keep families together won’t get enough Republican votes to pass the House without help from Democrats. He said he supports the USA Act, a proposal with 52 bipartisan cosponsors that would fund President Donald Trump’s border wall and create a pathway to citizenship for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

“The next immigration bill is going to have to be bipartisan,” Barton said. “We’ve tried everything else.”

President Donald Trump signed an executive order that would require judicial action to pause his administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that led to families being separated, but he made it clear that he still expects Congress to act. The best chance to get a bill through both the House and the Senate will be to make it as narrow as possible, according to Representative Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma.

“How skinny will it be? If it turned sideways and stuck out it’s tongue, it would give a zipper a run for its money,” Cole said.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the Washington state Republican who also is chairwoman of the Republican conference, is working on legislation focused on family separations, but she declined to say whether Democrats will be included in the drafting of that bill.

“We’re going to just keep working through it,” McMorris Rodgers said. “We’re just having discussions right now.”

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