Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart are trying to force votes on four immigration bills, bypassing Speaker Paul Ryan and House GOP leadership, which have been resistant to any immigration proposal that doesn't have 218 Republican votes.
Curbelo filed a petition on Wednesday that would require Congress to vote on a proposal known as "Queen of the Hill," an arcane legislative maneuver that allows the majority of Congress to vote on a legislative solution for DACA recipients who are currently mired in legal limbo after Congress and the White House failed to find a solution earlier this year.
The courts are trying to determine the legality of President Donald Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, an Obama-era executive action that protected 690,000 young immigrants from potential deportation.
"Together we have taken this historic step to bring Congress as close to meaningful immigration reform as ever before," Curbelo said. "No matter what your immigration priorities are, this process that we have begun today and we hope will conclude successfully will give every member of the House the opportunity to bring his or her solution on this issue and it will give the House the opportunity to answer the president's call to action."
If a majority of Congress, regardless of party affiliation, signs onto Curbelo's resolution then four different immigration bills would get consideration in the House of Representatives. The move allows Curbelo and Diaz-Balart to join up with House Democrats and force a series of votes. Curbelo and Diaz-Balart are in the minority of their own party on immigration issues and are facing competitive reelection campaigns against Democrats who are trying to highlight Washington's inaction on finding a solution for DACA recipients.
If 20 Republicans and all 193 House Democrats join Curbelo, Diaz-Balart and three other House Republicans who signed onto the petition, votes on various immigration bills could commence early next month. Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen signed the petition and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has said previously she supports the petition.
“Throughout my tenure in Congress, I have refused to sign discharge petitions when Republicans are in the majority because I consider them to be a political tool used by those in the minority," Ros-Lehtinen said in an email. "That is still my belief. However, this majority-driven petition will be my exception to that rule. For far too long, the House has refused to act to protect DREAMers. We can no longer sit with our arms crossed waiting for a ‘magic wand’ solution."
The petition, if successful, would force votes on a conservative immigration proposal embraced by the majority of House Republicans that has so far failed to garner 218 votes, a bill called the Dream Act that would protect DACA recipients and DACA-eligible young people who didn’t sign up for the Obama-era program from deportation and give them a path to citizenship, a bill that gives DACA-eligible young people a path to citizenship while also including funding for border security and a fourth bill of Speaker Paul Ryan's choosing. The bill with the most votes, so long as it constitutes a majority, will head to the Senate for consideration.
"We just have to keep moving forward and I'm optimistic that this is one of the ways to do that," Diaz-Balart said. "So at the same time this is going on hopefully there's going to be other things happening, we're always talking, but I think this is a way to increase pressure and move forward."
AshLee Strong, Ryan's spokeswoman, did not condemn or praise the petition when asked about it Wednesday.
“We continue to work with our members to find a solution that can both pass the House and get the president’s signature," she said.
Curbelo, who recently signed onto the Dream Act, and Diaz-Balart, who recently drew a serious Democratic challenger for the first time in a decade, have tried for months to find an immigration solution with the blessing of GOP leadership. They have been unable to do so because of conservatives who are reluctant to vote on any bill that provides a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who came to the U.S. without authorization.
McClatchy DC reporter Kate Irby contributed to this report.