WASHINGTON (TNS) — After failing to pass a conservative immigration bill last week, the House is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a Republican-sponsored compromise bill that may not pass _ and is almost certainly a nonstarter in the Senate even if it does.
The decision to push a broad immigration package gives lawmakers little time to address the immediate crisis of immigrant children separated from their parents at the border. Lawmakers are set to leave Thursday for a weeklong holiday break.
President Donald Trump has given wildly mixed signals about his preferences, initially saying he opposed the compromise bill, then saying he was 1,000 percent for legislation, and then suggesting in a tweet that Republicans shouldn't bother trying to pass the bill because it wouldn't get support from Senate Democrats.
The current immigration bill would provide $25 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a Trump priority, and would make steep cuts to legal immigration programs. It also would provide legal status to so-called Dreamers who were brought to the country illegally as children years ago.
A vote on the bill, a compromise negotiated in recent weeks between conservative and moderate Republicans, was delayed twice last week. House GOP leaders acknowledge they still don't have the 218 votes needed to pass the bill despite holding 235 seats in the chamber.
"Why doesn't a few Democrats move over? If they are honest about wanting to secure the border, here is the opportunity," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Monday on Fox News.
At his weekly news conference Tuesday, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., wouldn't discuss proposals for a narrower bill to address the more than 2,000 children separated from their parents since May as part of the administration's "zero tolerance" policy of prosecuting all adults who illegally cross the border.
Ryan said he wants to "do as well as we possibly can" in Wednesday's vote, adding, "If that doesn't succeed, then we'll cross that bridge.
"But the last thing I want to do is undercut a vote on what is a great consensus bill that we're bringing to the floor Wednesday," he said.
Last week, amid a public outcry over wrenching images of children being taken from their parents, Trump signed a directive to keep families together in detention. But that shift could be short-lived.
Under a 21-year-old court settlement known as the Flores agreement, the federal government agreed to hold immigrant minors no longer than 20 days. Immigration cases typically take much longer to process in courts.
On Monday, Border Patrol officials announced they had stopped handing over immigrant parents for prosecution because, they said, they were running out of beds to house migrant families. The reversal means migrant families, in theory, will be released pending their court dates.
The administration has already asked a federal judge to modify the Flores settlement and allow families to be held together in unlicensed facilities while their immigration cases are considered. The Obama administration made a similar request in 2015, but a judge refused.