GOP cadre launches rare effort to force immigration debate in House

A small group of House Republicans attempt to reignite the immigration debate.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., called a legislative Hail Mary, launching a rare attempt to gather 218 signatures, constituting a simple majority of the lower chamber, on a discharge petition to bypass normal procedures to bring a bill to the House floor for consideration.

Assuming all 193 House Democrats join the effort, Curbelo needs 25 House Republicans to sign onto the petition. So far, 17 Republicans have joined the coup.

“It is time for Republicans and Democrats to come together on what can be a bipartisan solution, but we have to first have the debate. This will force the debate,” California Republican Rep. Jeff Denham, the architect of the effort, said. “We feel very importantly that this has gotta happen now and we're willing to drive that vote.”

Curbelo and colleagues are striving to put legislation on the floor paving the way for an open debate of four competing pieces of immigration reform, kicking off a process known as “Queen of the Hill,” where the bill with the most votes beyond a simple majority becomes the prevailing piece of legislation.

“This is about us being able to take a vote on all of the bills,” Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, said. “And that way members of Congress can be held accountable for a yes or no vote.”

“We continue to work with our members to find a solution that can both pass the House and get the president’s signature,” Ryan’s press secretary AshLee Strong said.

There is no time limit to gather 218 signatures on the discharge petition, but an incomplete effort expires at the end of the 115th Congress next January.

“The objective here is to have a debate and to have votes. We cannot predetermine the outcome,” Cubelo said. “This is the best chance any of these bills have of coming to the floor.”