Far-right Freedom Caucus schemes to block House DACA vote with parliamentary shenanigans

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) may use farm policy as a bargaining chip to prevent a vote on bipartisan legislation.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC)
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) in January. CREDIT: by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

As a group of House Republicans inches closer to securing floor votes on a few different proposals to protect undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as kids, hard-line conservatives from the Freedom Caucus are scheming to use parliamentary maneuvers to thwart them.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the caucus chair, said Wednesday that he and his group might even hold their party’s Farm Bill hostage in the process of blocking votes on immigration reform measures.

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Since the Republican leadership in the House has refused to bring any bills to the floor to solve the problem created by President Donald Trump’s attempts to eliminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections, a group of House Republicans launched an effort last week to circumvent them. If they can get 218 U.S. Representatives to sign onto a discharge petition, they could enable floor votes on four immigration reform proposals to address the issue. One of these would be Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s (R-VA) hardline anti-immigrant bill, which doesn’t currently include a path to citizenship for DACA beneficiaries.

Although Ryan has decried the effort, saying that discharge petitions “disunify our majority,” as of Thursday 20 Republicans and two Democrats have signed onto the petition. If just five more Republicans and the remaining 191 House Democrats follow suit, the effort could succeed.

But Meadows does not want to leave the decision up to majority rule. The man who once proposed that only bills with at least 67 percent popular support be brought to the floor instead wants to bring up Rep. Goodlatte’s unpopular approach under a closed rule, which would mean no votes on bipartisan alternatives.

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Meadows told The Hill that if this gambit succeeded, it would nullify the discharge petition that also includes the Goodlate bill. Proponents, he said, “would have to find another vehicle to be attached to in order to be effective. And so the clock would start all over again.” And he indicated that his group might block the House Republicans’ Farm Bill legislation if doing so helped convince Republican colleagues to help him block votes on bipartisan DACA proposals.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), a chief proponent of the discharge petition strategy and one of its signatories, was not impressed with the Freedom Caucus’ approach.

If Curbelo can convince just a few more of his GOP colleagues to reject Meadows’ approach, they and the lawmakers who have already signed on could prevent the Freedom Caucus from hijacking the process — and could send the Senate a long-awaited bipartisan DACA solution.