In the House, members have another amnesty play


© Greg Nash

In a body of 435 members all scrambling to get attention, it seems appropriate that there is a rule called “queen-of-the-hill” in the House of Representatives.

Since February, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has been pushing Democrats to use queen-of-the-hill — a rarely used rule that allows votes on several proposals, with the one receiving the most votes over 218 winning the day.

Specifically, Hoyer wants to use this tactic to pass the DREAM Act, legislation that would provide amnesty for upwards of three million illegal immigrants.

Now, Democrats have found a willing Republican partner in this strategy.

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) has introduced a resolution that would, if adopted, execute the queen-of-the-hill strategy by setting up votes on four immigration measures: the USA Act, the DREAM Act, Securing America’s Future Act, and a yet unidentified bill to be selected by the speaker’s office.

Both the USA Act and the DREAM Act would provide amnesty to over three million illegal immigrants under 18 years of age, though some estimatesput it closer to 17 million due to the quadrupling effect that chain migration has on immigration totals. Neither bill provides much in the way of meaningful border security measures (the DREAM Act doesn’t address border security at all).

The proposal offered by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is narrowly tailored to deal only with the 700,000 recipients of DACA, whose recipients are given work authorization but not a path to citizenship. The bill also provides several meaningful border security measures, including an end to chain migration and authorizes funding for President Trump’s long sought-after border wall.

No one knows what bill Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would select to fill the fourth spot, though Members of Congress have speculated that it could be a bill representing what President Donald Trump has said he will support: codification of DACA in exchange for an end to chain migration and funding for a southern border wall.

The substance of these bills is largely moot, however, as this queen-of-the-hill strategy is designed to do exactly one thing: pass an enormous amnesty via the DREAM Act.

A quick look at who is supporting this strategy makes this clear. The Denham queen-of-the-hill resolution has 274 cosponsors. 195 are Democrats. 52 are Republicans. Of the 195 Democrats, every single one is a cosponsor of the DREAM Act. None of them support the Goodlatte proposal. Not even a handful support the USA Act.

Of the 52 Republicans who have cosponsored the queen-of-the-hill-strategy, nearly half of them have sponsored the DREAM Act, with only nine of the 52 cosponsoring the Goodlatte bill.

This strategy has one outcome, and one outcome only: amnesty. And not just for DACA recipients, though they receive immediate permanent residence under the DREAM Act, but for any illegal immigrant who has arrived in the US in the last 4 years that is under 18 years of age.

In other words, if the queen-of-the-hill strategy is implemented, we aren’t just talking about codifying DACA. We are talking about a strategy that will successfully implement the amnesty by way of the DREAM Act, passing it with Democratic votes under a Republican House majority.

And right now, 52 Republicans are poised to allow this to happen. Based on the number of cosponsors, Denham’s measure already has more than the 218 signatures necessary to discharge the resolution from committee and bring it to the floor, where a simple majority can vote to take it up.

Motions to discharge are considered one of the more violent procedural measures available to members. House leadership normally dictates what measures come to the floor and when, so motions to discharge bills in circumvention of House leadership is widely viewed as a slap in the face to the speaker.

Control of the floor — and control of the members — is a power that House Republican leadership guards with jealousy. Republicans who have crossed their leadership in far lesser ways, such as voting against rules that bring leadership-selected bills to the floor, have been stripped of their committee seats and fundraising opportunities in retribution.

Ryan has, thus far, refused to endorse the strategy, pointing to the three offers Republicans made on DACA during omnibus negotiations, which were roundly rejected by Democrats. For his part, Denham won’t say whether he will file a discharge petition, simply calling for his resolution as part of “regular order.” (To the latter point, it’s worth noting that none of these bills have gone through committee.)

You know what would really sound the death knell for the already substandard performance of this Republican majority? Allowing Democrats — the party in the minority — to control the floor and pass amnesty, on top of failing to repeal ObamaCare, continuing to fund Planned Parenthood, and spending even more than President Obama had ever envisioned.

With the midterm elections only months away, House Republicans need to get their priorities in order. But on that note, what does this Republican majority stand for, anyway? We’re all still waiting to find out.

Rachel Bovard (@RachelBovard) is the senior director of policy for The Conservative Partnership, a nonprofit group headed by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint aimed at promoting limited government.