Pro-reform House Republicans could bypass Paul Ryan and force a DACA vote

23 GOP Representatives have signed a discharge petition. With a handful more, it could get interesting.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI)
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), at a May 8, 2018 news conference, could soon be bypassed by DACA reform supporters. CREDIT: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) hasn’t allowed the House of Representatives to vote on offering permanent protections for undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children. But thanks to a little-used procedure called a “discharge petition,” a group of renegade Republicans could now circumvent his leadership and force floor votes on the issue.

There’s bipartisan support for a permanent solution for the beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which offers certain young immigrants temporary work authorization and deportation relief. President Trump tried to end the program last fall, and the House of Representatives has avoided taking up the issue thus far.

Now, that could change.

In order for the gambit to work, 218 U.S. Representatives would have to sign a “motion to discharge.” That would bypass the typical committee process and bring a bill to the floor. With all 193 Democrats’ signatures, just 25 Republicans could bring DACA reform back to the fore.


On Wednesday morning, Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) filed such a petition. It could bring four different bills up for a vote. Reportedly these would likely include Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s (R-VA) hardline anti-immigrant bill, which doesn’t include a path to citizenship; a clean DREAM Act, offering a path to citizenship for young immigrants who came to the country without children but without additional funding for border security; a bill by Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) and Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) that offers a path to citizenship for Dreamers but also adds more funding for border security; and a bill of Ryan’s own choice. Whichever legislation gets the biggest majority would go to the Senate.

Politico reporter Rachel Bade tweeted on Wednesday that the House Republican leadership is “trying to shutdown this DACA discharge petition,” but that sources on both sides of the issue say the pro-reform group is “within striking distance” of the needed signatures.

As of June 12, a total of 23 Republicans had already signed onto the bill and all 193 Democrats. Just two more signatures could make it happen. And more than the needed number of Republicans signed a December 2017 letter urging action on DACA by the end of the year, so this is their chance.

The last two times a discharge petition worked were 2015, when members used one to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank and 2002, when enough members of the Republican majority and Democratic minority bucked then Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) to successfully vote on and pass the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (commonly known as McCain-Feingold).

This story has been updated to include the latest number of signatures and number required. An earlier version incorrectly stated that the number of signatures required for a discharge petition would be smaller than 218 based on vacancies and that the 2002 campaign finance reform vote was the last successful discharge petition.