Un­usual strat­egy by rebels in GOP

Cal­i­for­nia Re­pub­li­can pair file rare dis­charge pe­ti­tion to re­vive im­mi­gra­tion bills

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Gayle Putrich

WASH­ING­TON — A re­bel­lion led by a pair of Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­cans seek­ing to force a House vote on DACA leg­is­la­tion is clos­ing in on suc­cess, de­spite GOP lead­er­ship’s efforts to kill it.

At stake could be the long-term fu­ture of more than 600,000 un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants who are tem­po­rar­ily pro­tected from be­ing de­ported un­der the De­ferred Ac­tion for

Child­hood Ar­rivals pol­icy, which Pres­i­dent Trump has tried to kill. Also at stake could be the long-term fu­ture of Cen­tral Val­ley GOP

Reps. Jeff Den­ham and David Val­adao, who face dif­fi­cult re-elec­tion bat­tles in dis­tricts that are lean­ing more Demo­cratic.

Congress failed to make head­way on im­mi­gra­tion issues ear­lier this year, and the ur­gency to re­solve DACA re­cip­i­ents’ sta­tus faded when

Trump’s ef­fort to end the Obama-era pro­gram be­came en­tan­gled in the courts. Judges have or­dered the ad­min­is­tra­tion to ex­tend cur­rent ap­pli­cants’ sta­tus and ac­cept new ap­pli­ca­tions from un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants who came to this coun­try as mi­nors.

Then last week, Den­ham and Val­adao joined Re­pub­li­can Reps. Car­los Curbelo of Florida and Fred Up­ton of Michigan in fil­ing what’s known as a dis­charge pe­ti­tion — a rarely in­voked pro­ce­dure to do an en­drun around House lead­ers and force a mea­sure to be brought to the floor.

For the tac­tic to suc­ceed, a ma­jor­ity of House mem­bers must sign on — which would re­quire 25 Repub­li­cans and all 193 Democrats to join forces. As of Thurs­day, 20 Repub­li­cans had joined the pe­ti­tion, with Reps. John Katko of New York and Dave Trott of Michigan the lat­est to climb aboard.

Den­ham has writ­ten and co-spon­sored sev­eral im­mi­gra­tion-re­lated bills, most of which have not gained trac­tion. In a mes­sage to con­stituents last week, the four-term con­gress­man from Tur­lock (Stanis­laus County) said Congress should not be leav­ing the fate of DACA re­cip­i­ents up to the courts.

“Congress must do its job and have the de­bate we have avoided for years,” he wrote. “Congress has blown past ev­ery dead­line put in front of us and left the lives of these peo­ple and the se­cu­rity of our borders in limbo with no per­ma­nent so­lu­tion in sight.”

If the pe­ti­tion can pick up the needed sig­na­tures, lead­er­ship would be forced to bring to the floor four ex­ist­ing im­mi­gra­tion bills that ad­dress DACA. Den­ham’s dis­charge pe­ti­tion pro­vides for one bi­par­ti­san mea­sure, one hard-line Repub­li­can­backed bill, a Democrats’ pro­posal to sign the ex­ist­ing ver­sion of DACA into law and a fourth that would be up to House Speaker Paul Ryan to choose. Which­ever re­ceives the most votes in the so-called queen of the hill res­o­lu­tion would move on to the Se­nate.

Dis­charge pe­ti­tions are sel­dom suc­cess­ful — the last one to work was a 2015 ef­fort to reau­tho­rize the U.S. Ex­portIm­port Bank. But Den­ham said he was “con­fi­dent we have the names and the votes,” even with Ryan and House Ma­jor­ity Leader Kevin Mc­Carthy, RBak­ers­field, fight­ing hard against it.

Mc­Carthy told fel­low Repub­li­cans in a meet­ing Wed­nes­day that pass­ing a bi­par­ti­san im­mi­gra­tion bill would de­press Re­pub­li­can turnout in the Novem­ber elec­tion and jeop­ar­dize the party’s con­trol of the House, ac­cord­ing to Politico, which quoted an uniden­ti­fied source who was at the ses­sion.

Ryan, R-Wis., told re­porters Wed­nes­day that with­out Trump’s agree­ment on a deal, there was lit­tle point mov­ing for­ward. “We don’t want to ad­vance some­thing that we know will just get ve­toed,” he said.

Be­fore Congress halted work on a DACA deal in Feb­ru­ary, Trump backed a pro­posal that would have pro­vided a path to citizenship for peo­ple el­i­gi­ble for the DACA pro­gram. In ex­change, it would have per­mit­ted fu­ture im­mi­grants to spon­sor only their spouses and mi­nor chil­dren for ad­mis­sion, end the di­ver­sity visa lot­tery that al­lows en­try to 50,000 peo­ple a year from coun­tries with low lev­els of mi­gra­tion to the United States, and pro­vide $25 bil­lion for border se­cu­rity.

Such a bill would win few if any Demo­cratic votes to­day. House Demo­cratic leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco said this week that some Repub­li­cans may be hold­ing off on sign­ing the dis­charge pe­ti­tion to help Ryan “save face.”

But she added that Den­ham, Val­adao and the other Repub­li­cans who want a DACA vote “are close to the num­ber. And the prediction is they will get the num­ber.”

The White House said Thurs­day that Trump’s po­si­tion on im­mi­gra­tion has not changed. “We need strong im­mi­gra­tion laws,” the pres­i­dent said dur­ing a press avail­abil­ity with vis­it­ing NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.

Like Den­ham, Val­adao has been tar­geted for elec­tion de­feat this year by Democrats hop­ing to flip 25 seats na­tion­wide and re­take the House. Val­adao has won three elec­tions in a San Joaquin Val­ley dis­trict that Trump lost to Hil­lary Clin­ton in 2016 by more than 15 points. Trump lost Den­ham’s dis­trict as well, and Den­ham him­self beat his Demo­cratic op­po­nent in 2016 by just three points.

“Im­mi­gra­tion re­form is not a par­ti­san is­sue, and, for far too long, Repub­li­cans and Democrats alike have failed to pro­vide Amer­ica with a so­lu­tion,” said Val­adao, R-Han­ford (Kings County). “Each of the four pieces of leg­is­la­tion in­cluded in the queen of the hill res­o­lu­tion aim to re­form our im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem in a unique and di­verse way. At the very least, each pro­posal de­serves to be fully de­bated and con­sid­ered in Congress.”

Ryan and other House lead­ers may have a way out, even if enough Repub­li­cans sign on to Den­ham and Val­adao’s ef­fort. Some mem­bers of the Free­dom Cau­cus, which in­cludes the most con­ser­va­tive House Repub­li­cans, have ap­proached Ryan of­fer­ing to bring a hard­line im­mi­gra­tion bill to the floor sep­a­rately.

That bill, by Rep. Bob Good­latte, R-Va., would pro­vide tem­po­rary le­gal sta­tus for DACA par­tic­i­pants, re­new­able ev­ery three years. It would also elim­i­nate ex­tended-fam­ily visas not only for fu­ture but also cur­rent im­mi­grants, in­clud­ing the back­log of 4 mil­lion fam­ily visa ap­pli­ca­tions. It would cut other im­mi­gra­tion pro­grams by nearly 25 per­cent and block fed­eral funds to sanc­tu­ary cities.

The bill would al­most cer­tainly fail, but bring­ing it to the floor sep­a­rately could kill the dis­charge pe­ti­tion ef­fort. The bill is one of the four that would be con­sid­ered un­der the pe­ti­tion, but it can­not be brought to the floor twice.

Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call Inc.

Reps. David Val­adao, R-Han­ford (Kings County), and Jeff Den­ham, R-Tur­lock (Stanis­laus County), lead­ers of the GOP re­bel­lion, are gain­ing sup­port from other House Repub­li­cans.

Jewel Sa­mad / AFP / Getty Images 2017

Demon­strat­ing for the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals leg­is­la­tion rally near Trump Tower in New York in 2017.

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