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    Super Moderator GeorgiaPeach's Avatar
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    'I thought you were my friend': Immigration Meltdown Exposes GOP Hostilities

    ‘I thought you were my friend’: Immigration meltdown exposes GOP hostilities

    June 27, 2018

    Rachael Bade

    A seven-week effort to pass immigration reform ends in anger and distrust across the House Republican Conference.

    Moderate House Republicans suspected they were being played.

    For weeks they’d been negotiating with Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows in a quest to clinch an immigration deal that could pass the House. But whenever the two sides got close, they said, immigration hard-liners would ask for more. Then, on the morning of a scheduled June 21 vote, moderates got their hands on an explosive missive from the Freedom Caucus’ top staffer: an email warning group members that voters would punish them for backing any bill with a whiff of “amnesty.”

    “This is bull—-,” Rep. Tom MacArthur scolded Meadows at a meeting in Speaker Paul Ryan’s office that day. The New Jersey Republican, who had worked closely with Meadows in the past and wanted a deal, demanded to know why Meadows appeared to be backing away from a bill he helped craft.

    Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), a leader of the pro-immigration reform centrists, read the Freedom Caucus email aloud, as Meadows insisted he had no knowledge of it. Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) said he’d been warned not to trust the Freedom Caucus, seething that he’d never make that mistake again.
    And so it was that nearly two months of intense intraparty negotiations broke down. Their “compromise” bill died Wednesday afternoon, 121 to 301 — the latest in a string of high-profile failures to overhaul the nation’s immigration system and an embarrassment to House GOP leaders and President Donald Trump. While several top conservatives had been in the room helping write the bill, every single one of them voted against it.

    This account is based on interviews with more than 20 lawmakers and staffers who were intimately involved in negotiations over the past month-and-a-half. It paints a picture of immense distrust across the conference and showcases how immigration has become a third rail of Republican politics, immune to reform even under one-party rule.

    By teaming up with Democrats, moderates sought to use a rare legislative tactic know as a discharge petition to force their GOP colleagues into a deal. But when their effort came up short, they lost all their leverage. And in the end, conservatives felt little pressure to cave, setting a high bar for their votes.

    Conservatives argued that they negotiated in good faith but never promised their support. They said they had already made a significant concession on a new pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, the young immigrants brought to the country as children, but needed moderates to greenlight stronger enforcement provisions in return.

    Centrists countered they did all they could to accommodate the priorities of hard-liners, knowing it could hurt them politically back in their districts. Despite their distrust of the Freedom Caucus, many of them had, at times, believed that Meadows would back the bill and bring most of his group along.
    “The Freedom Caucus people,” said Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.), one of the discharge petition signers, “just kept negotiating themselves out of a deal.”

    ‘The best bad idea you’ve ever had’

    Denham was walking back to his congressional office after a mid-March House vote when Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) told him to hold up. The two Californians from opposite parties had played together on the congressional football team. They had also bonded over their desire to pass legislation addressing the fate of Dreamers.

    Trump last year announced he was scrapping the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program that Barack Obama created to shield so-called Dreamers from deportation. Ryan responded by promising Denham and other Republican moderates from districts with big Latino populations that he would act before December, then January, then February — and finally, before Trump’s March 5 deadline to terminate the program.

    Those dates all came and went with immigration talks as dead — and centrists like Denham as fed up with Republican leaders — as ever.

    But what if we force them? Aguilar asked Denham. The Democrat’s office had spent hours researching an obscure legislative procedure known as a discharge petition. There was a way, he told Denham, that the two of them could do an end run around Ryan — all they needed was 218 signatures to force votes on bills of their choosing. If Aguilar could bring along all 193 Democrats, Denham would need to peel off only 25 Republicans.

    It was a long shot, both of them knew. Only 20 times had lawmakers waged a successful discharge petition since its creation in the early 1930s — out of more than 560 attempts. Only two of those 20 were signed into law. But both men were bullish: All they needed was Republican leaders out of the way.

    “That’s the best bad idea you’ve ever had,” Denham teased Aguilar, according to a source with direct knowledge of their conversation.

    Denham had a band of like-minded allies poised to join him. Rep. Will Hurd, (R-Texas) whose district spans a third of the U.S.-Mexico border, was itching for a DACA solution. So, too, was Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Cuban-American from Miami who had warned Ryan for months that he might back a discharge petition to secure an immigration vote if the speaker didn’t schedule one himself.

    Aguilar took it upon himself to help with recruitment. The Democrat compiled an Excel spreadsheet that ranked Republicans based on a list of criteria: What had they said about DACA? Had they bucked leadership in the past, or signed a discharge petition? What was the makeup of their districts? Were they retiring?

    From the data he came up with three tiers of “gettable” Republicans. A lobbying campaign to get them onboard commenced.

    Petition leaders wanted to collect 15 signatures on the first day to show Ryan’s inner circle they were serious. Within a few hours they had 17, just eight shy of the magic number.
    GOP leaders mobilized, too, knowing that a swath of the conference was frustrated and that they had a serious problem on their hands.

    During a pair of closed-door meetings in mid-May, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) warned Republicans that the effort to force bipartisan votes on immigration could cost them the House. Conservatives would be furious if they acted on DACA without building a wall or cracking down on illegal immigration, he said, and much of the base would sit out the November election if they proceeded.

    Ryan, one of the few GOP leaders who had spoken of Dreamers in more sympathetic terms, took a different approach. Instead of chiding the petition backers, he urged them to work within the party to find a Republican solution.

    The moderates miscalculate

    Freedom Caucus leaders and moderate Republicans decided to engage, each side thinking it had the upper hand and could get most of what it wanted. But the centrists were plainly wary: The Freedom Caucus was not known for its willingness to compromise.

    Still, the centrists calculated they could prevail either way. They knew most Republicans in the conference wanted a vote on a reasonable immigration bill. And they knew most Republicans disliked the Freedom Caucus because of its hostage-taking tactics. So if the Freedom Caucus walked away from the negotiating table, even more Republicans would sign their discharge petition out of anger with the group, the thinking went.

    On a Wednesday evening in early June, over cigars and drinks on a balcony in the Capitol, Denham went over the emerging strategy with Aguilar. Moderates had come up with a list of demands they figured conservatives would never go for, starting with a pathway to citizenship for all 1.8 million Dreamers, which the hard-right had long deemed “amnesty.”

    “The House Freedom Caucus will blow this up,” Denham told Aguilar, according to a source familiar with their conversation. “It will break down and we will have more signatures.”

    He went on to promise the Democrat: “I will not screw you.”

    But to moderates’ surprise, conservatives didn’t storm away. Meadows lavished praise on them when the two sides sat to negotiate, convincing many of them that he sincerely wanted a deal. And immigration hard-liners started making concessions they’d flat-out rejected before.

    The biggest breakthrough came courtesy of Rep. Raúl Labrador, an outspoken former immigration lawyer and Freedom Caucus member who had long tormented Republican leaders. Labrador had just lost a primary bid for Idaho governor, ironically because his opponent spent millions accusing him of being soft on immigration. With the shackles of reelection removed, Labrador proposed an idea that conservatives and moderates might actually embrace.

    In a deserted House Oversight Committee room in late May, Labrador pitched Curbelo on a new “merit-based” visa program for Dreamers. Lawmakers could shift visas from the diversity visa lottery program that conservatives and Trump hated to a new program that would allow Dreamers as well as other types of immigrants to apply for green cards.

    Crucially, conservatives would be able to say it was not a “special” pathway for Dreamers alone.

    “I can live with that,” Curbelo told Labrador.

    After so many failures, some senior Republicans in the room were privately hopeful that maybe a Republican bill addressing DACA was possible.

    But the bubble quickly burst. Just as the tentative accord on the new visa program seemed to be firming up, Denham announced the development to reporters, infuriating Freedom Caucus members.

    The move was intentional.

    “We had to smoke them out,” said one moderate-aligned source following the negotiations. In other words:

    Moderates needed to find out if Freedom Caucus members were willing to back publicly what they seemed to be in favor of in private.

    The blowback was immediate. Outside anti-immigration groups jammed lawmakers’ phone lines to complain. Meadows denied the existence of any agreement.

    Just a few hours earlier, Ryan had told lawmakers involved in the talks to keep the visa development under wraps, according to one conservative lawmaker present. Beyond that, the two sides hadn’t talked about what border security measures conservatives would need in order to back the new visa system. “Nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to,” McCarthy had said.

    The two sides clashed at a meeting the next day. Freedom Caucus members arrived with a two-page list of demands they’d need to back Labrador’s green card program. A shouting match ensued, as Denham complained that conservatives kept asking for more. Hurd, who had always been suspicious of the Freedom Caucus, walked out of the room in frustration.

    Eventually the hard-liners agreed to narrow their demands over the weekend before a critical June 12 deadline that moderates had set to secure the 218 signatures for their discharge petition.

    It was around that time that GOP leaders picked up their effort to stop the petition. Pointing to ongoing talks between moderates and conservatives, Ryan and McCarthy claimed that real progress was being made and the conference had a shot at passing a Republican bill on immigration — a suggestion that made would-be discharge petition signers hold off.

    Sensing that moderates were struggling to clinch the final signatures for the discharge petition, conservatives returned to Washington that week feeling little pressure to cave. And to the annoyance of GOP leaders and moderates, they started pushing for two controversial provisions that could repel some moderate support.

    Conservatives wanted to add to the bill E-Verify, a mandate that all businesses certify the legal status of their workers. Just a few days earlier, negotiators had agreed to take the toxic policy provision off the table and vote on it separately later. McCarthy even went around the room and asked everyone individually if E-Verify was off limits going forward, and no one dissented.

    Conservatives also wanted an assurance that Dreamers could never sponsor their parents, who brought to them to the U.S. illegally, for citizenship. The request was always a non-starter for moderates, though many House Republicans had expressed a desire to include the provision.

    On the night of the petition deadline, June 12, both sides left Ryan’s office without a deal. Moderates grumbled privately that conservatives were moving the goalposts, and conservatives countered that they were merely going through each item, one at a time, as it came up.
    “We’d say ‘Whoa! We haven’t discussed these provisions.’ And they’d say, ‘We haven’t heard this before!’” conservative Rep. Scott Perry summarized. “Well, you hadn’t heard it because we hadn’t gotten to it! That’s the point of a discussion. That’s not ‘moving the goalposts.’”
    Moderates had threatened for weeks to set the discharge petition in motion if they didn’t get an agreement with conservatives by June 12. But hours before the petition deadline, there was no compromise, and they were still two signatures short.

    Moderates frantically called “gettable” lawmakers on their list, trying to lure them over. They were rebuffed by Reps. Dan Newhouse of Washington and Dennis Ross of Florida. They phoned Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois, but he was out of town. They leaned on Rep. Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican known for bucking leadership, but he also refused.

    Democrats also tried to help. At Aguilar’s request, Roman Catholic bishops in New York called Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) to try to persuade the Catholic lawmaker to sign on. King wouldn’t do it. Neither would retiring Reps. Trey Gowdy and Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who had just lost his seat in a primary.`

    “We were trying up until the last minute. But I don’t control anyone’s vote or pen,” Curbelo said in an interview.

    It was then that moderates made what Aguilar called their biggest mistake: They agreed to a process that night that would effectively kill their discharge petition. With no agreement in sight, Ryan proposed two immigration votes: One on a conservative DACA bill, the other on “compromise” legislation they’d continue trying to negotiate.

    Sensing the wind was against them, moderates reluctantly agreed.

    “They walked away from the bipartisan effort then got screwed by the House Freedom Caucus,” Aguilar said. “They were in too deep.”

    Trump makes things worse

    With the discharge petition all but dead, conservatives were confident they were back in command. Centrists were backed into a corner. They had already acceded to restrictions on immigrants who want to sponsor family members, not to mention $25 billion for Trump’s border wall. They also went along with a “merit-based” pathway to citizenship, as conservatives wanted, which meant that some Dreamers might not qualify.

    Yet immigration hard-liners did not seem satisfied. Jordan began saying that he probably couldn’t vote for the bill in its current form. Even Labrador, who devised the new visa program, wouldn’t commit.

    But it wasn’t just the Freedom Caucus getting nervous. Traditional Republicans across the conference were afraid of being tagged as supporters of “amnesty,” a term anti-immigration groups were already using to describe the bill.
    When Republican leaders turned to Trump for help, he wasn’t there.

    Trump came to Capitol Hill on June 19 to rally Republicans around immigration. But instead of endorsing the compromise bill, he said he just wanted them to send him a solution. That gave conservatives permission to vote for their own plan, but not the compromise.

    After what one undecided member called Trump’s “worst performance” that “didn’t move the needle,” GOP leaders whipped the conference and found that a huge number of members remained undecided and still wanted clarity from the president.

    Meanwhile Meadows, the Freedom Caucus member who had seemed most willing to cut a deal, seemed to be backing away. During a meeting in the basement of the Capitol the day after Trump’s visit, he claimed conservatives had been lied to by leadership about which conservative bill would get a vote.

    Sensing trouble, one Republican in the room texted Curbelo to get down to the basement of the Capitol quickly. But Meadows was already on fire.

    A few minutes after the meeting, Meadows accosted Ryan on the House floor and accused him of deceiving the Freedom Caucus. Meadows raised his voice and shook his index finger at Ryan. He also threatened to sink the farm bill, which needed Freedom Caucus votes to pass.

    “I’ll take it down!” Meadows yelled at Ryan, later adding, “It doesn’t matter anymore!”

    Ryan called Meadows back that night to say most of his changes would be made. Both sides chalked it up to a communication breakdown.

    But some Republicans began whispering that Meadows was trying to find a way out of negotiations by engaging in what one moderate called “political theater.” Two lawmakers, one a moderate and the other a conservative, told Politico that they believed Meadows wanted to cut a deal. But as the leader of the hard-liners, he “had an internal conflict about this thing,” the moderate lawmaker said.

    Meadows’ allies said he had every right to be furious. They accused Republican leaders of trying to suppress support for a more conservative immigration bill to make the moderates’ plan look more popular.

    During a private lunch with Ryan and a small group of Republicans the next day, June 21, rank-and-file members from across the conference confronted Meadows about what happened. GOP leaders had scheduled a vote on the legislation that evening, and MacArthur demanded to know what changes Meadows needed to the bill.

    But when Meadows described the issues he was upset about, MacArthur said they all could have been ironed out civilly.

    “You don’t allow a drafting issue to blow up a deal,” MacArthur later said when asked about the exchange, though he would not comment on the heated meeting in Ryan’s office. He also said moderates were partly to blame for the bill’s ultimate failure.

    That was when Denham pulled up the Freedom Caucus email from that morning that appeared to warn members against supporting the legislation. While the email didn’t explicitly mention the compromise bill, the staffer pointed out a Tea Party Patriots poll that said three-fifths of Republican voters “would be LESS LIKELY to vote to re-elect a GOP Member of Congress who voted to provide amnesty for a group of illegal immigrants.”

    “Why would you include that information in there if you weren’t trying to bring it down?” asked one moderate source working on the negotiations.

    Denham and Katko declined to comment on the confrontation. Asked about the heated exchanges Tuesday evening, Meadows said he never committed to vote for the bill and “has been negotiating in good faith.” The Freedom Caucus leader said it was clear many other Republicans had problems with the legislation. And he wasn’t wrong: More than 110 GOP members opposed the measure on Wednesday.

    “It’s not my responsibility to get to 218 votes,” Meadows said. “I represent a group of 40 people that are not going to decide the fate of this legislation.“

    One last try

    On Thursday, two days after the president’s unproductive visit, Republicans braced for a doomed vote. Lawmakers would bail in droves rather than risk their careers on a bill that was going down anyway.

    Earlier that day, leaders were told the White House would endorse the compromise bill in a new statement, giving nervous lawmakers some cover. But the statement never came.

    While GOP leaders were eager to get the whole thing over with, some lawmakers still wanted more time. Leadership relented, allowing a one-day delay and scheduling an emergency meeting that night.

    As Republicans gathered in the basement of the Capitol, a number of Republicans from across the conference said they still wanted to include E-Verify in the bill, as well as to bar parents of DACA recipients from qualifying for citizenship. It became clear that the bill would die without those tweaks.

    It was around that time that Meadows approached Denham with one last pitch: What if we push this into next week and try to add E-Verify? Denham hesitated, knowing it would put moderates who didn’t like the addition in a difficult spot. But if it meant more support, fine, he said. Whatever it takes.

    The duo took their idea, conceived by Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker of North Carolina, to GOP leaders in the front of the room, then promptly announced it before the entire conference. The two sides, Meadows and Denham said, would try to add E-Verify and see whether they could come up with something more members would support.

    During his speech, however, Denham said one word that caught Labrador by surprise: “agreement.” Indeed, several members exited the room thinking a deal had been struck that would win conservative votes.

    So as lawmakers exited the room, and negotiators stayed behind to continue talks, Labrador pulled Meadows aside with a warning. According to a source familiar with their conversation, Labrador warned Meadows that moderates appeared to be trying to corner him into saying he’d back the bill if E-Verify were included.

    When the Freedom Caucus leader came back to negotiate a few minutes later, his tone had shifted, people in the room said. Far from promising to move members of his group, he cautioned that he didn’t know how many Freedom Caucus members he could bring along if E-Verify were added.

    Denham tried to pin him down, asking Meadows whether the addition would secure his own vote. When Meadows said he couldn’t promise that, Denham raised his voice in frustration.

    “I thought you were my friend,” he said to Meadows. Denham listed all the ways he thought conservatives had moved the goalposts; Meadows said he hadn’t promised anything when he agreed to talk about E-Verify.

    As members were about to leave the room, Meadows tried to keep a positive tone. He kissed Curbelo on the forehead and said they’d continue working through the weekend.

    But three days and 100 pages of proposed amendments later, conservatives still weren’t on board — and more and more were dropping by the minute. Realizing it wouldn’t help their vote count at all, moderates decided to drop E-Verify from the bill and finally accepted the loss that was long coming.

    Trump, ironically, tweeted his support for the bill the morning of the embarrassing vote. But by then it was way too late.

    “Our members are angry, very angry. Everybody. Across the spectrum,” said a Republican leadership source involved in the talks. “People feel like they’ve been betrayed in this process. They feel like this has been ordeal. No one is happy.”
    Last edited by GeorgiaPeach; 06-28-2018 at 04:47 PM.
    Matthew 19:26
    But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

    Join our efforts to Secure America's Borders and End Illegal Immigration by Joining ALIPAC's E-Mail Alerts network (CLICK HERE)

  2. #2
    Super Moderator GeorgiaPeach's Avatar
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    Millions of Anericans feel that they have been betrayed. They are not happy, either. Stop the amnesty talk. Renounce your citizenship, take up residence in your preferred nation and help those foreign citizens so many of you want to represent. American citizens vote for citizen representation. Betrayal and traitor are words to follow Congress members who advocate for amnesty. American lives should be the first consideration. All we see and hear these days are what can we do to accommodate people here illegally.
    Matthew 19:26
    But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

    Join our efforts to Secure America's Borders and End Illegal Immigration by Joining ALIPAC's E-Mail Alerts network (CLICK HERE)

  3. #3
    Senior Member Judy's Avatar
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    The only people "betrayed" by this process are the American citizens who elected you to stop illegal immigration, not legalize it. Now sit down, shut up and wait for orders from this President. He does not support DACA, he does not want Amnesty, he wants a wall, 15 thousand more ICE Agents, 2000 more immigration judges and prosecutors, some loopholes fixed, chain migration eliminated, legal immigration cut in half, and the end of the visa lottery. He wants an end to sanctuary cities and state and local law enforcement authorized to enforce US immigration law. So until you have enough votes to give him that and the other 65 items on his list WITHOUT a DACA or Amnesty, there is nothing you can or will do on this until after the midterms and then maybe you'll win some more seats and can actually do something without trying to buy votes from DemoQuacks, which best I can tell are not for sale to begin with.
    A Nation Without Borders Is Not A Nation - Ronald Reagan
    Save America, Deport Congress! - Judy

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  4. #4
    MW is offline
    Senior Member MW's Avatar
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    Now sit down, shut up and wait for orders from this President.
    That's not how our Republic works (thank goodness).

    "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" ** Edmund Burke**

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