politics

Ryan Under Pressure From Both Sides of GOP Over Immigration

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

House Speaker Paul Ryan is being attacked from the ideological center and the far right wing of his Republican Party as both sides try to break the months-long logjam over immigration legislation.

Moderate Republicans on Wednesday were a handful of GOP petition signatures away from forcing a vote on four competing proposals to enhance border security and protect some young undocumented immigrants from deportation. Ryan of Wisconsin has said he opposes such a move because it would “turn the floor over to the minority” by using a vote process known as "queen of the hill" to send the bill with the most support to the Senate.

Conservatives, meanwhile, are formulating demands for a vote on hardline immigration limits sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia. GOP leaders say his bill doesn’t have enough votes to pass, but members who support it say it should go through committee and get a floor vote.

Mark Meadows, the North Carolina Republican who chairs the far-right Freedom Caucus, said some of his three dozen members who are undecided on this week’s farm bill would vote for it if leaders schedule a vote on the Goodlatte measure. A member of that group, Louis Gohmert of Texas, said some Republicans want to overthrow Ryan as speaker if he doesn’t push for a conservative solution for immigration.

“Some of us feel like if he doesn’t take one of these steps to avoid us getting pushed into the corner with the ‘queen of the hill,’ then it may justify a motion to vacate the chair” to remove Ryan as speaker, Gohmert said. “I am very concerned that we are not adequately addressing the things that got Donald Trump elected president.”

While Republicans are unlikely to support efforts to topple Ryan, the disputes over immigration show deepening divisions as lawmakers on both ends of the GOP try to notch one more win before a tough election in November. Ryan, who will leave Congress in January, has urged members to focus their campaigns on the economy and last year’s tax cuts instead of controversial policies that could depress voter enthusiasm.

“Our members of our majority fall into different camps, and they want a solution on DACA, and they want a solution on the border and on security issues,” Ryan said. DACA refers to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

“Obviously, we do not agree with discharge petitions" to force a vote, Ryan said. "We think they’re a big mistake. They dis-unify our majority.”

Ryan said he’s working on an alternative with Trump, who made immigration and building a wall on the border with Mexico a central part of his 2016 campaign. The speaker has said that he wants an immigration bill that can become law, which would require some Democratic votes in the Senate and Trump’s signature.

Jeff Denham, a California Republican who started the effort that led to the discharge petition, said he supports putting the Goodlatte bill on the floor, but it should be considered along with the other three proposals to see what can actually get a majority.

“if you never have a debate, if you never have a vote, then you never know,” Denham said.

— With assistance by Erik Wasson, and James Rowley

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