Democrats Split on When to Push Immigration

House Democrats are divided on when to put immigration legislation on the floor for a vote, which they can force by using a discharge petition. 

The discharge petition would need a majority of lawmakers’ signatures. Because of the difficulty in coming up with those 216 signatures, which would have to include 17 GOP votes, some Democrats want to wait. Angela Kelley, the vice president of immigration policy for the Center for American Progress, said to wait until key primary filing deadlines pass.

One Democratic leadership aide said of the petition, “I think it’s likely to happen. I think people just want to make sure the groups are in the right place.” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wants a vote before May. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) said, “Ultimately, a discharge petition may not be the tool that causes the Republican leadership to let the majority vote, but it increases the pressure, which is what we need.”

Since the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill last June, the consensus was to avoid using the discharge petition and instead give House GOP members time to come up with their own legislation. However, Schumer said earlier this month he wanted to move forward with the petition, asserting that the only reason the House GOP was delaying immigration reform was that a “minority faction has scared Republicans.”

Only three House Republicans have co-sponsored House Democratic immigration bills similar to the Senate’s, differing only in the elimination of the Senate’s border-security provisions.


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