The House rejected the GOP’s second attempt at passing immigration reform Wednesday, clearing the way for a possible vote on a narrower proposal to codify the Trump administration’s family separation policy next month.
Despite weeks of debate and negotiations over the details of the measure, the bill fell short of the 193 votes a more conservative version of immigration reform garnered last week. Just 121 Republicans voted in favor of H.R. 6136, the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act, while 301 lawmakers voted against it, including 112 Republicans and 189 Democrats.
After watching their bill get unceremoniously rejected, moderate Republicans who forced this month’s immigration debate called for a bipartisan process to solve the country’s immigration crisis.
“What was obvious today is that Republicans cannot pass a 218 Republican bill, just as Democrats couldn't pass one in 2010,” 14;32;40 Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., told ABC News after the vote. “It's important to recognize that it's going to take a bipartisan bill that both addresses border security as well as a permanent fix for Dreamers.”
Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who led the effort alongside Denham, slammed his conservative colleagues who voted to maintain the status quo’s broken immigration system, summing up their opposition as a preference for the “petty politics of immigration.”
“What we witnessed today was a minority of Republicans joining every Democrat in the House to double down on a failed, broken, inefficient, unfair and at times cruel immigration system,” Curbelo, R-Fla., steamed after the vote. "They prefer the petty politics of immigration instead of the solutions for immigration.”
The chamber was initially scheduled to vote on the so-called compromise proposal last week, but GOP leaders twice scrapped plans for a vote after struggling to win support and a series of conflicting messages from President Trump about his support for the immigration legislation.
After meeting privately with House Republicans and promising to support their efforts to pass larger immigration packages – “I am with you all the way,” he told them behind closed doors – Trump abruptly changed his tone, tweeting that Republicans were “wasting their time” taking up the issue before the November elections.
Despite the about-face, Trump then tweeted support for the bill ahead of the vote Wednesday.
The measure, a modified version of a conservative border security and immigration bill from Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Mike McCaul, R-Texas, would have provided $25 billion in funds for a border wall and a pathway to citizenship for young immigrants brought to the country illegally. Democrats also opposed the vote because the bill would have sharply decreased the number of legal immigrants accepted into the country.
The bill would have allowed the government to use money from a $7 billion fund to build new detention facilities, and lift the cap prohibiting the government from detaining accompanied children for more than 20 days, a provision Democrats claim would allow the government to detain children with their parents indefinitely.
Last Thursday the House rejected a more conservative version of the immigration proposal, though conservatives grumbled that the bill’s vote total – it attracted 193 votes – was higher than expected and could have passed if Republican leaders would have worked harder to whip up support.
While the Senate was never expected to take up any House-passed immigration legislation, some Republicans were encouraged by the latest lower chamber’s efforts.
“This is the closest we've been in thirty-something years to getting something on the floor,” Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., the chair of the Republican Study Committee, a large caucus of conservatives, said in an interview. “I do think there's a good bit of us that aren't ready to give up on something."
While House Speaker Paul Ryan said he held the votes so his colleagues could “express” themselves on immigration, some Republicans hope Congress will return to the issue before the congressional midterm elections this fall.
“Perfection cannot be the enemy of progress,” Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., added. “What we saw today I believe has less to do with good policies and more to do with making Congress look more dysfunctional for political reasons. And I blame both sides for that.”
Still, Denham says he’s not taking any options off the table.
“Today we moved the ball forward,” Denham said. “We negotiated a lot of different issues and I think there's gonna be a great deal of public pressure over the next several weeks and several months. It's going to be a long summer until we get this done.”