- President Trump met with the entire House Republican Conference on Tuesday to discuss immigration legislation slated for a vote later this week.
- Trump backed both bills being offered, but the takeaway from Republicans in the room is that he supports the moderate “compromise” bill more than the conservative Goodlatte-McCaul bill.
- Trump also spent time during the meeting talking about a range of off-topic issues, including an insult at one Republican who recently lost his primary election.
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump met with Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill in an attempt to cobble together enough support for an immigration bill. Trump’s visit on Tuesday happened amid ongoing controversy surrounding the administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy that is leading to the separation of families who illegally cross the US-Mexico border.
House Republicans are split on the path forward for an immigration bill. There are two pieces of legislation slated for a vote this week. One is a “compromise” bill crafted by moderates and House Speaker Paul Ryan’s team; the other is a more hard-right conservative bill put forth by Reps. Michael McCaul and Bob Goodlatte, who chair the committees on Homeland Security and the Judiciary, respectively.
The meeting, which lasted less than one hour, featured Trump discussing the various aspects of the two immigration bills. Trump also spent a large chunk of the meeting talking about trade, tariffs, and his accomplishments, according to multiple people in the room. At one point, Trump also barbed South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford for losing his primary election last week. However, Sanford was not in the room at the time.
According to those in the room, Trump expressed vigorous support for both the Goodlatte-McCaul bill and the compromise bill.
But the takeaway from the meeting was mixed. Republicans differed on whether or not Trump offered a full-throated endorsement of the compromise bill, though all said he showed support for it.
Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, an influential Republican and whip in the conference, said Trump made it “abundantly clear” he is backing the compromise bill.
As for family separations, which have dominated in the press over the past week, Cole said Trump wants any fix to be part of a larger bill, as opposed to a standalone measure.
“He would like to do that, but he would like to do it in the context of a comprehensive settlement,” Cole said. “Again he made it abundantly clear he doesn’t like anything like that. But again, our law forces some things that none of us want to have.”
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican who was integral in crafting the compromise bill, told reporters afterward that “it’s pretty clear [Trump] supports the compromise bill.”
“I think he would obviously support the Goodlatte bill as well. The question is, how much support does that have in the House?” Diaz-Balart added. “So I think it’s pretty clear, not only does he support the compromise bill, but he backs it all the way.”
Less than sure from the president’s thoughts was Rep. Steve King of Iowa, an GOP hardliner who has pushed back against attempts to include legal status and pathways to citizenship in immigration bills.
“He spoke about the topics,” King said. “I don’t know if he specifically said that [he supports the compromise bill].”
The whole immigration fight might be a futile exercise
The compromise bill came together in the final minutes of an attempted discharge petition, a procedural manoeuvre to force a vote on any given issue that leadership will not put on the floor.
One Republican aide told Business Insider that the whole ordeal in putting together the compromise bill was just an effort to put the discharge petition to rest. Others see a path forward where something could potentially become law.
But the entire process might be an exercise in futility. Neither of the two immigration bills are expected to pass in the Senate, which rejected four similar measures in February. At the same time, Senate Republicans have not yet reached a consensus, nor are they sure which legislative vehicle any potential solution would take.
As long as the Trump administration stays the course and congressional Republicans are unable to get on the same page, the controversy surrounding family separations could very well continue into the near future.
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