WASHINGTON (CBSMiami/CNN) – Moderate Republicans are talking about using a parliamentary procedure to force a vote on the House floor on the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program.
The vote would help determine the fate of hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
On Wednesday, Rep. Carlos Curbelo told CBS4 News that he believes a compromise could be close.
“Over the last ten plus years leadership of both parties, at different times, have refused to advance immigration legislation and because of our initiative it looks very likely that that’s going to happen now in the coming weeks,” said Curbelo.
On Thursday morning, a House Republican conference will seek to settle their differences in a rare, two-hour immigration meeting where GOP leaders will try to forge consensus between the conservatives and moderates within their ranks and end a month-long game of chicken over a moderate tactic that has engulfed the conference.
The objectives are multi-layered for leadership, who have been caught in the crosshairs of the Republican civil war. The trick will be to find a path that can appease vulnerable members and base-pleasing conservatives in a difficult election year — and to save face for leadership while jockeying to replace outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan.
The outcome of the meeting is anyone’s guess, but the goal — just five months ahead of a midterm election — is to unite the conference and stave off the votes for what is known as a discharge petition, the moderates’ attempt to bypass GOP leaders and force a set of immigration votes on the House floor. Moderates are only a handful of signatures away from forcing the votes, but have held off on the final support as negotiations with leadership have intensified.
Curbelo has led efforts on the discharge petition.
Key negotiators on all sides of the conference met Wednesday afternoon in Ryan’s office and while Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy signaled the members were bridging the gap, no deal had been made by Wednesday evening ahead of the conference meeting.
“We’re still not in a situation where there is an agreement,” Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican and the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, told reporters.
Still, Meadows said that leadership may have enough to present a few concepts to the conference Thursday morning that members had been working toward.
Thursday’s meeting comes after weeks of intense negotiations behind closed doors — which members have consistently described as more productive and closer than the conference has ever been to reaching consensus even as a deal has remained elusive.
Republican leaders began convening the talks between moderate and conservative Republicans when dueling uprisings collided. Last month, moderates who had organized the discharge petition were picking up momentum. Furious, conservatives showed their strength by tanking an unrelated agriculture bill over the issue of immigration. The closed-door negotiations followed, with members genuinely expressing optimism that both sides were giving talks an honest shot.
But even as progress is said to be made, a key sticking point has will remain when Republicans gather Thursday morning: How the young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children that were protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would stay in the US.
Moderates have insisted that those individuals have a way to make their status in the US legal. Conservatives have derided anything they label a “special path” to citizenship that would only be available to a specific population.
Coming out of the meeting in Ryan’s office, Curbelo and conservative Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador reiterated those positions to reporters without indicating they had been resolved.
“We’re working on the bridge design,” Curbelo joked when asked how those could be reconciled. “It will be a beautiful bridge.”
But moderates leaving the meeting said the discharge petition could still be in play this week if no deal comes together.
Back in September, President Donald Trump gave Congress six months to take action on DACA, though various court rulings have kept the program from being rescinded.
(©2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN contributed to this report.)