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House GOP leaders defeat effort by moderates to force a vote on bipartisan legislation for 'Dreamers'

Sarah D. Wire, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- An effort by moderate Republicans to force votes on a bipartisan immigration bill failed in the House on Tuesday, with members agreeing instead to vote on legislation that would guarantee funds for President Donald Trump's proposed border wall.

The agreement meant defeat, at least for now, for an effort led by GOP moderates to use a rare parliamentary maneuver known as a discharge petition to force the House to vote on the bipartisan immigration plan, and three other bills, over the objections of party leaders.

The dissident Republicans, frustrated by Congress' failure to resolve the legal status of "Dreamers" -- people brought to the U.S. illegally as children -- had combined with the chamber's Democrats to try to force a vote on a plan that would offer the young immigrants a pathway to citizenship.

Defeat of the effort greatly reduces the chances -- already slim -- that Congress could pass any form of Dreamer legislation before this year's midterm election.

The moderate group had claimed to have the 218 supporters -- a majority of the House -- needed to force a vote. But as they neared the goal, GOP leaders increased pressure on party members who had said they were willing to sign the petition.

Tuesday evening, with the petition stuck at 216 signatures, the moderates backed down, accepting a proposal by Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., to put aside their effort and instead have the House debate two bills next week -- both of which have only Republican support.

"Members across the Republican Conference have negotiated directly and in good faith with each other for several weeks, and as a result, the House will consider two bills next week that will avert the discharge petition and resolve the border security and immigration issues," Ryan's spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, said in a statement.

One bill would be a hard-line immigration enforcement proposal backed by conservatives that even its supporters acknowledge doesn't have enough support to pass the House.

The other, touted by Ryan as a compromise, was still being cobbled together by GOP leaders late Tuesday, and key provisions were uncertain. Earlier versions of that bill would have given an opportunity for citizenship to some Dreamers, providing visas to them by eliminating the current diversity lottery visa program.

While the exact provisions remain unclear, what does seem all but certain is that neither proposal would receive the backing of Democrats or be able to pass the Senate. Both measures would include new immigration restrictions and money for Trump's border wall, which Democrats oppose.

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