Moderate Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives failed in their attempt to force Speaker Paul Ryan to bring a vote on the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program to the house floor. Shortly before the deadline of midnight on Tuesday it was announced by GOP leadership that the moderates had come up short in their attempt to pass a discharge petition that would have forced a vote on the DACA proposal. With the support of all Democrats in the House, plus a handful of GOP moderates, the DACA proposal would have passed the House against the wishes of Ryan and other members of the Republican leadership team.
For several weeks the Republican moderates had been trying to force a vote on DACA by securing enough votes to pass the discharge petition. But in the final count they had only 216 of the 218 votes they needed to bypass Speaker Ryan and take the DACA vote straight to the full House for a vote.
DACA has widespread support among American voters but is not supported among conservative Republicans who take a hard line on immigration reform. Moderate Republicans know that voters in their districts back home support DACA and thus they want a vote in the House. These are the most threatened of all GOP members of the House and many of them come from districts that either supported Hillary Clinton or that Trump won by a small margin.
A discharge petition is a rarely-used parliamentary gambit to circumvent committee approval and bring a bill directly to the House floor. If moderates had obtained enough signatures they would have forced House members to debate four different immigration bills, including a bipartisan DACA bill that is supported by all Democrats and several Republicans.
Speaker Ryan did not want to go ahead with a floor vote on the bipartisan bill because that would be perceived as a major victory for Democrats in an election year, and it would have caused a major split within the House Republican caucus.
Since the discharge petition failed Ryan will bring to the house floor only two immigration bills, and they do not include extension of the DACA program. After the discharge petition failed Ryan issued the following statement:
“Members across the Republican Conference have negotiated directly and in good faith with each other for several weeks, and as a result, the House will consider two bills next week that will avert the discharge petition and resolve the border security and immigration issues.”
Ryan may think he won a victory and averted a disaster, but by leaving the DACA children hanging in limbo he has not solved anything and it is possible that voters in the fall will express their displeasure and put Democrats back in charge of Congress.