Friday brought chaos to a conservative effort to broker compromise on a House immigration bill.
After a week of long talks, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan promised Wednesday that Republicans were finally finding common ground on a contentious immigration issue.
Ever since President Donald Trump formally rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in September, a handful of House moderates have demanded immediate reform. Several attempts to compile legislation in the Senate fell flat, even with a deadline to stop the deportation of some Dreamers quickly approaching.
While a 2017 court decision compelled the Department of Homeland Security and U.S.C.I.S. to continue processing DACA paperwork renewals, the future of the program’s participants in America is far from certain. In lieu of any real leadership from the Republican Party or White House, some conservatives in immigrant-heavy districts threatened to sign aboard a petition that’d bring a series of immigration bills to the House floor.
Caught between moderates at risk of defecting to a Democratic discharge petition and hardline members of the Freedom Caucus, Paul Ryan had spent weeks brokering a bill that both sides might find favorable—only to have President Donald Trump refuse to sign off.
Friday’s drama left Ryan and Republicans in a hard spot—their bill had covered President Trump’s requirements for Dreamer legislation, including $25 billion for an enhanced border wall and the curtailment of two visa programs.
Hours later, White House spokespeople were saying the opposite: that Trump would approve either the bill brokered by Ryan or a comparatively harsh measure supported by Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R).
“The President fully supports both the Goodlatte bill and the House leadership bill,” said White House spokesman Raj Shah.
Any confusion, claim White House staff, came from Trump’s misunderstanding of a question asked in a Friday ‘Fox and Friends’ interview.
“I’m looking at both of them,” Trump told Fox. “I certainly wouldn’t sign the more moderate one.”
POLITICO adds that, hours later, Trump shot off an even more confusing tweet, demanding that any immigration bill have exactly what both include.
“Any Immigration Bill MUST HAVE full funding for the Wall, end Catch & Release, Visa Lottery and Chain, and go to Merit Based Immigration. Go for it!” wrote Trump in typically disjointed style.
Some Republicans speculated that Trump would eventually change his mind, once he realized what provisions the bills include.
“I think once he has a chance to digest it, he will sign it,” said Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who helped author the compromise bill with Ryan. “We need the president to look at it, and look at it in detail.”
Trump’s roundabout acceptance could set the stage for a Republican-led attempt at immigration reform.