Democrats go after swing-district Republicans for striking immigration compromise with conservatives

Key Points
  • Democrats target Republicans running in swing districts as the House GOP reaches a partisan deal to bring up immigration bills next week.
  • Republicans are abandoning, for now, a petition to force votes on a range of proposals to protect young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
  • It is unclear now whether the House can pass a planned bill that aims to balance the concerns of centrist and conservative Republicans.
Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., arrives to the Capitol office of Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., for a meeting on immigration on June 12, 2018.
Tom Williams | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images

Democrats turned up political pressure on swing-district Republicans after two pockets of the House GOP reached a compromise immigration deal.

A centrist Republican effort to force a vote on a wide range of proposals to protect and offer a possible path to citizenship for young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children is now delayed. Instead, the House next week will consider one bill intended to strike a balance between the concerns of moderates and conservatives, and another that includes proposals backed by the party's right flank. Both are expected to meet President Donald Trump's demands for an immigration bill.

The moderate Republicans, joined by Democrats, fell just two signatures short of the 218 needed on a petition to force immigration votes. It is unclear what the compromise Republican bill will contain or whether it can garner enough support to pass the House. More details about the legislation are expected to emerge in the coming days.

The centrist GOP lawmakers could still take up their petition against the wishes of Republican leaders if the current deals, reached late Tuesday, collapses. Still, the House Democrats' campaign arm contended that swing-district GOP lawmakers abandoned their push to protect the young immigrants.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee focused in particular on Reps. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., Will Hurd, R-Texas, and Jeff Denham, R-Calif. Those three lawmakers were driving forces behind the immigration rebellion.

"House Republicans' latest failure to deliver for DREAMers is made all the more inexcusable by their many empty promises that they would get the signatures and move on the discharge petition," DCCC spokesman Javier Gamboa said in a statement Tuesday night. "If vulnerable members like Carlos Curbelo, Will Hurd, and Jeff Denham can't get the job done with their party controlling all of Washington, they have no business serving in Congress."

All three Republicans are expected to face tough Democratic challenges for re-election in November's midterms. The races for their districts will help to determine whether Republicans can stop Democrats from flipping the 23 GOP-held seats needed to take a House majority.

The campaign of Democrat Josh Harder, who appears to hold the lead in the crowded race to challenge Denham in November, also criticized the GOP deal. Campaign spokeswoman Nicole Nabulsi said, that "when push comes to shove, Denham votes with his party leadership over our community."

Denham campaign spokesman Joshua Whitfield said the representative "is working harder than anyone in Congress to deliver a permanent solution" for the immigrants, known as Dreamers.

Curbelo campaign spokeswoman Joanna Rodriguez said the Florida Republican has used various legislative tools in recent years to force the issue on immigration, including filing this year's discharge petition. She noted that without Curbelo's efforts, the House would not be debating immigration policy next week.

"Anyone who says Carlos Curbelo hasn't put everything he has into passing a permanent solution for Dreamers is clearly detached from reality," Rodriguez said.

In a statement, Curbelo's potential Democratic opponent Debbie Mucarsel-Powell contended the congressman "caved" to GOP leaders and gave up leverage on DACA. She accused him of trying to score "cheap political points" on immigration.

Hurd's Democratic challenger Gina Ortiz Jones said the congressman's record on Dreamers "continues to be all talk, no success, with thousand of families in the district paying the price." His district, Texas' 23rd, "deserves a representative who can deliver real results on fixing immigration," she added.

Hurd's re-election campaign did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

In a statement after the immigration deal Tuesday, Curbelo urged his colleagues to "remain committed to the discharge petition." He said centrists must "keep up the pressure" until they have determined that the immigration bill addresses their concerns.

The moderate Republicans want a pathway to citizenship for up to 1.8 million undocumented immigrants. Some conservatives oppose the proposal, calling it a form of amnesty.

President Trump says he will not sign an immigration bill without a 'real' border wall
Trump says he will not sign an immigration bill without a 'real' border wall

Trump has also complicated matters. He says he will only sign a bill that includes four measures: legal protections and a pathway to citizenship for the immigrants; boosting border security and building the president's proposed border wall; ending the diversity visa "lottery" system; and limiting family sponsorships.

Republicans and many Democrats would support increased border security measures as part of a deal. However, numerous lawmakers are reluctant to support the president's proposed restrictions on legal immigration.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has repeatedly said the chamber should focus on passing a bill the president will sign. Ryan told colleagues in a closed-door meeting Wednesday that Trump supports his plan to bring the two bills to a vote next week, according to reports.

The Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protected young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children from deportation and allowed them to temporarily work or get an education in the U.S. Trump attempted to end DACA, but courts have held up the action.