House Republican leaders, eager to stop an immigration showdown in their chamber, have begun cutting deals with lawmakers who might help moderate Republicans trigger bipartisan votes to protect Dreamers.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy phoned Rep. Dennis Ross on Monday and offered the Florida Republican what he wanted in hopes of keeping him from joining the moderates’ discharge petition: the promise of a vote on a guest worker program before August recess.
Ross, who’s retiring at the end of the year, had been threatening for weeks to join Democrats along with two dozen Republicans to force a series of immigration votes addressing the Obama-era Deferred for Childhood Arrival program. The group needs only three more signatures to reach 218 threshold.
Ross appeared to be satisfied after the call from McCarthy. And it‘s unclear now whether GOP moderates will be able to garner enough support for the so-called discharge petition by the close of business Tuesday, as they originally intended.
“I’m probably going to take myself off the [discharge petition] watch list,” Ross said in a brief interview. A guest worker program for immigrants employed in agriculture and construction and the like “has been my big issue. We need to have labor. We’re in a negative population growth in the United States … Where we going to find people to do these jobs?”
It is unclear what Ross’ decision means for the discharge petition’s fate. Moderates on Friday began downplaying the Tuesday deadline, arguing that technically they could force the immigration matter in July or even later if they wanted.
If they push back their deadline, however, it will be the third time they’ve done so. Originally, moderates, who rarely go against leadership, said they wanted to have a deal with conservatives on immigration before the Memorial Day recess — or they’d force the issue and garner the final signatures before the break. That came and went, however, with moderates eyeing a June 7 deadline instead. Then the date became June 12.
By John Bresnahan for POLITICO
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