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House Republicans, facing a rebellion over immigration, schedule a critical meeting

Key Points
  • The House Republican conference will meet on immigration next month.
  • Centrist GOP lawmakers and conservatives are rebelling against party leaders over how best to handle legislation related to millions of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
  • The spat has shredded party unity and could force out Paul Ryan as House speaker even before his retirement in January.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI)
Aaron P. Bernstein | Reuters

House Republicans will meet for two hours on immigration next month as leaders face a rebellion within their caucus about how best to handle undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

The House Republican conference gathering will take place June 7, a spokeswoman for the conference confirmed. The potentially contentious discussions on a divisive policy will happen amid GOP primary elections across the country and only months ahead of November's critical midterms.

Centrist House Republicans, upset at a lack of action to shield those immigrants from deportation, are trying to force a vote on an immigration policy, against GOP leaders' wishes. With the support of many Democrats, they are only a handful of votes shy of reaching the threshold needed to bring up a vote.

Amid momentum for the moderate GOP effort, the party's right flank has pushed for a vote on a conservative immigration bill. The House Freedom Caucus last week helped to sink a GOP-written farm bill championed by House Speaker Paul Ryan as they did not get assurances about voting on immigration policy.

The squabbles threaten to pit two sides of the party against one another at a time when Republicans are trying to cling to a House majority. The immigration fight could force out Ryan as speaker even before his retirement in January and could hurt the bid by his handpicked successor, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, to replace him. The California Republican will need support from conservatives to lead House Republicans.

Ryan asked the caucus Tuesday to put aside disagreements over immigration and work together to keep control of the chamber, Politico reported. His proposition "fell on deaf ears," according to the news outlet.

It is unclear what path Republicans could seek after the conference meeting. Many GOP lawmakers do not want to reach a bipartisan agreement with Democrats, believing doing so could tamp down enthusiasm from the Republican base in November.

Some conservatives have even proposed cutting off election cash from national GOP groups to moderates who support the immigration petition. That may not be realistic, as centrists often represent swing districts that Democrats have a better chance of flipping than those represented by conservatives.

President Donald Trump, who has aligned with conservatives in calling for tougher restrictions on legal immigration in exchange for shielding the young immigrants, has stayed out of the spat. His administration ended the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protected those immigrants, though the move to kill the program has been held up by court decisions.

The program protects from deportation people brought to the U.S. as children and allows them to temporarily work or get an education legally in the U.S.

Several proposals to shield the immigrants failed in the Senate earlier this year.