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House Republican Leaders Set To Vote On Immigration Proposals


It's been a long time coming. Next week, House Republicans will take up two immigration bills to address the legal status of people brought to the U.S. as children. It's the first time the House will attempt to tackle the contentious immigration legislation since President Trump took office. NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis reports on the latest chapter in the long-running struggle inside the GOP to find unity on this issue.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: House Republicans know what they're about to do could come at a price this November.

TOM COLE: No. I think there is a political risk, but I think the greater risk would've been to do nothing.

DAVIS: That's Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole. And on that point, most Republicans agree. After the Senate failed to act on immigration back in February, House leaders were happy to ignore the immigration debate ahead of this year's elections. But in recent weeks, pushback from conservatives and moderates who want to go on record on this forced House Speaker Paul Ryan's hand with some conditions.


PAUL RYAN: Last thing I want to do is bring a bill out of here that I know the president won't support. Well, we've been working hand in glove with the administration on this to make sure that we're bringing a bill that represents the president's four pillars so that we can come together, have the votes that everybody's looking for...

DAVIS: The votes Republicans are now looking at are on two competing proposals. One is expected to be more conservative. The other - more moderate. Both are aimed at providing legal certainty to people brought to the U.S. as children, often called DREAMers. From there, the two bills are expected to include competing provisions on border security and changes to legal immigration, and it's unclear if either can pass. White House adviser Stephen Miller says the president supports House Republicans on both efforts.

STEPHEN MILLER: The president has been extremely supportive of what Raul Labrador and Bob Goodlatte and Steve Scalise are doing to unify the Republican Congress. I think both of the bills are being finalized right now, but we strongly support what they're doing.

DAVIS: For conservatives, there has long been a political risk to supporting anything that provides a pathway to citizenship for people residing in the U.S. illegally. California Republican Jeff Denham downplayed those fears on Fox News.


JEFF DENHAM: I don't think that Republicans should be afraid to face this in the elections. We ought to be championing - not only fighting for certainty for DREAMers, but we ought to be championing the fact that we're going to secure our border.

DAVIS: For moderates, especially those in the battleground districts that will determine the majority this November, they risk appearing too cozy with Trump's hard-line immigration policies and rhetoric. Centrists tried to force votes on bipartisan bills that had a lot of Democrats on board. They were overruled. Here's Florida Republican Mario Diaz-Balart.

MARIO DIAZ-BALART: You've heard me say this. Obviously my preference is always to do a bipartisan bill from the get go, right? That doesn't seem to be something that's possible right now.

DAVIS: Democrats are expected to overwhelmingly oppose both bills, so Republicans are on their own. California Democrat Linda Sanchez is a member of her party's leadership. She says Democrats aren't going to offer any support for what they see as a purely political exercise intended to help vulnerable Republicans.


LINDA SANCHEZ: Fundamentally, at the base of it all - no matter how much lip service they give to wanting to provide a permanent solution for DREAMers and DACA recipients, the fundamental truth is, no, they really don't.

DAVIS: President Trump likes to blame Democrats for congressional inaction on immigration. But next week, the Republican majority will be tested on whether they can pass Republican ideas on Republican votes. And if they fail, they'll have no one to blame but each other. Susan Davis, NPR News, the Capitol.


Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.
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