Immigration talks on hold in House as all sides wait for draft bill text

Moderate and conservative Republicans are still at odds over how to proceed on immigration legislation, but they agree on one thing: They all want to see the text of a bill before announcing they have an agreement.

The moderate members, who jumpstarted the immigration talks with a procedural measure called a discharge petition to force votes on four separate immigration bills, are giving the leadership less than a week to come up with a bill and schedule it for a vote on the House floor.

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-California, one of the moderate leaders of the immigration discharge petition effort,  told reporters Thursday that he believes he has the 218 signatures necessary to meet the threshold on the discharge petition and force the votes. He said additional lawmakers will add their names if he hasn’t seen a bill in writing by Tuesday, which is the last day to get signatures on the discharge petition and still ensure that a vote on four separate immigration bills would take place on June 25 under the rules of the House. There are currently 215 signatures on the petition.

“We have had a promise of legislative text for weeks — if not months — and so we continue to have very productive discussions, but until it’s in writing and until it’s in bill form and until we have a commitment to a firm date on the floor, we are going to continue to move forward because we have the ability to bring up a bill that has bipartisan support,” Denham said.

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Washington, is a cosponsor of the USA Act, which would get a vote under the discharge petition. He has so far declined to sign the petition, but he hasn’t ruled it out.

“I’m willing to give leadership the opportunity they need to come up with a solution that…most of us in the conference can agree to and that’s still where I’m at,” he said, following a two-hour meeting this morning, during which the entire Republican conference gathered to discuss the issue.

The ongoing talks between the moderate and conservative members appeared to hit a snag Thursday afternoon after the meeting, over a misunderstanding over what the other side was offering.

Denham told reporters that a conservative had suggested a new type of visa that would be available for a larger population of people and could serve as a “bridge” for dreamers to eventually be eligible for citizenship without leaving the country. There would still be requirements, like attending school, holding a job, or serving in the military.

“It is something that was brought up and something we’d be willing to accept but it’s all about the details and we want to see it in writing,” he said.

But Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, who’s also involved in the negotiations denied there had been an offer of “new visas for dreamers.”

“I do not believe in a special pathway to citizenship, I have never talked about a special pathway to citizenship, and I would never agree to a special pathway to citizenship,” he said.

Similarly, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, one of the leaders of the House Freedom Caucus, said the group would only be willing to look at a visa that is open to everyone. “It cannot be just something special for a group of individuals who came here illegally,” he said.

Jordan did acknowledge that during negotiations Wednesday, there had been a discussion about a new type of visa that would be open to a larger population of people than just dreamers. It would enable recipients to get a green card and to apply for citizenship eventually without first leaving the U.S. Under current law, many people who came to the U.S. illegally are required to leave the U.S. first.

“There were ideas presented we were willing to listen to; we are willing to see what the final product says,” Jordan said. 

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