House GOP Leaders Delay Vote On Compromise Immigration Bill

Updated at 2:29 p.m. ET

House Republican leaders delayed a vote on the so-called "consensus" immigration legislation Thursday afternoon as they scrambled to convince enough GOP lawmakers to support the measure.

The vote on that bill is now scheduled for Friday morning, according to multiple House GOP leadership aides.

Some GOP lawmakers felt that they didn't know what was in the "consensus" bill as it was still being tweaked hours before they were scheduled to vote on it.

Earlier this week on Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., announced votes on two immigration bills – a measure crafted by conservatives and another compromise bill that he and other leaders negotiated with various factions of their conference. The House did vote Thursday on the conservative version, which failed.

House Republicans are scheduled to huddle Thursday afternoon to discuss the compromise bill in the hopes that more members will feel comfortable backing it.

The difficult task of passing immigration legislation is opening up longstanding fissures among the House GOP. If the issue continues to highlight disagreements within the Republican conference it could ratchet up pressure on Ryan to step down as speaker.

Since President Trump ended the protections of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program last September and punted its future to Congress, lawmakers have failed to reach a consensus on any legislation to deal with the program or with the administration's push for stepped-up border security measures. This latest effort is expected to fall short because the overlying dynamics of immigration politics haven't changed.

Ahead of the votes, Ryan conceded that the goal of bringing the likely doomed measures up for a vote was to prevent moderates from gathering more signatures on a measure known as a discharge petition, which would force votes on their own set of immigration bills.

"Because a discharge petition would have brought legislation to the floor that the president would have surely vetoed. It would have been an exercise in futility," Ryan explained. "But a lot of our members want to be able to express themselves by voting for the policies that they like, so they can express their votes on the floor."

Ryan's solution: a vote on a hard-line immigration measure authored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., followed by a vote on a broader measure that includes everything Trump wants to see in an immigration bill.

Trump himself questioned why the House would bother voting on bills even House Republicans were predicting would fail. Trump blamed Democrats for the bind, despite disagreements among GOP lawmakers being the reason for the likely defeat in the House.

There is overwhelming bipartisan support — at least among congressional leadership — for some sort of permanent protection for children and young adults who were brought to the country illegally as minors. But a significant slice of conservative House Republicans are opposed to any path to legalization, and Trump insists that any DACA bill also include billions of dollars for border security, as well as major restrictions on legal immigration.

But the group of moderate Republicans who wanted to force a floor vote on a bill protecting DACA recipients and increasing border funding want to steer clear of the legal immigration changes that Trump insists on.

Ryan told reporters that the House votes go beyond a political exercise, because Trump told lawmakers earlier this week that he would sign either measure into law if it somehow got to his desk. Both bills the House will vote on would allow the federal government to house parents arrested for crossing the border illegally alongside their children.

No Democrats are expected to support either measure, so the same Republican fissures that have doomed previous immigration attempts are expected to once again sink this week's effort.

If the leadership-backed immigration bill goes down, Ryan may face increased calls to vacate his leadership post before the year's end. Conservatives have argued that the issue of immigration was a driving force in Trump's 2016 presidential victory and voters expect the party to follow through on the promise to enact more hard-line policies policing the Southwest border. Ryan is not running for another term but has vowed to remain as speaker through the end of the year.

Republican tensions were evident on the House floor Wednesday evening, when Ryan and the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., appeared to argue with each other on the House floor.

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