House Republicans at odds over how best to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation emerged from a caucus meeting Thursday with no final deal on how to proceed.
Amid perceived inaction from GOP leaders, moderate Republicans have pushed to pass an immigration bill and are only a few signatures short of forcing a vote in the chamber. The centrist lawmakers' demands clash with those of House conservatives, some of whom oppose proposals to offer immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children a special pathway to citizenship.
Following the meeting Thursday, California Rep. Jeff Denham, a leader of the moderate group, said the lawmakers have agreed to a tentative offer from conservatives to protect the immigrants. However, he said the details are still murky, and they will not strike a final deal until they agree on all the particulars. The conservative House Freedom Caucus denied making an offer and said its members are working with colleagues to come up with a solution.
House Republican leaders aim to quickly resolve party fractures on the politically charged issue as the GOP tries to put up a united front and defend its House majority from a Democratic wave in November. Many of the Republicans leading the charge to force an immigration vote face Democratic challenges in competitive districts in this year's midterms.
Complicating matters for the GOP is President Donald Trump, who has set specific targets for an immigration bill he would sign. Speaking to reporters following the conference meeting Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan called the huddle "very productive" and again stressed that he wants to pass a bill that Trump finds acceptable.
"Hopefully we can find a path ahead that is consistent with the four pillars that the president has laid out and avoids a pointless discharge petition," The Wisconsin Republican said.
Trump has proposed the four pillars Ryan mentioned. Those are offering a pathway to citizenship for up to 1.8 million undocumented immigrants, boosting border security and building the president's proposed border wall, ending the diversity visa "lottery" system and limiting family visa sponsorships.
Trump himself tried to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program shielding the immigrants. Court decisions have held up his action.
It is not clear if even the majority House Republicans can agree to those steps. The Senate, where the GOP holds 51 of 100 seats, already rejected a bill modeled after Trump's demands earlier this year. Democrats have heavily criticized Trump's plans to restrict legal immigration.
Influential pro-business group the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also wrote a letter to House Republicans this week, urging them to protect the young immigrants and reject calls for restrictions on legal immigration, according to Bloomberg.
On Thursday, Ryan said his party has "more consensus than not" on immigration. He contended that the discharge petition "will result in no law" and said Republican leaders want members to reach "common ground" to pass a bill Trump will sign.
"It doesn't work if we don't have a bill that the president would sign," he said.
Ryan did not say whether he got any assurances that House Republicans would stop signing the so-called discharge petition to force a vote.
Leaving the meeting, conservative Rep. Dave Brat of Virginia told reporters that "no closure came about," according to NBC News.
Earlier, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., one of the drivers of the immigration petition, said "there's some loose consensus" on an agreement.
Numerous Democrats have already signed on to the effort to force a vote. Some members of the party have worried that backing the petition could lead to the House passing a bill funding Trump's proposed wall.
Asked about the meeting Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said "Lord knows" what will come out of the GOP negotiations. She pushed for action on helping the young immigrants, saying they currently live under a "cloud of uncertainty."