A news story about the “shining” Scalise operation said it was savvy enough to go over the heads of lawmakers who “can’t be convinced.”
Twenty-four hours later, King is the most important and outspoken advocate for a new version of two immigration bills that GOP leadership hashed out with him and other key hardliners in furious late-night meetings after the original GOP plan went down in flames.
The underlying structure – two votes, on two bills, the second one long called-for by conservatives – is the same. But leadership strengthened the language of both in a variety of ways, including allowing border state governors to deploy the National Guard without President Obama’s approval.
In a closed-door GOP conference meeting, King told colleagues that while the package yesterday had a good purpose, now it has language to match its intent, according to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).
“I’m very satisfied that the things that I offered that it takes to fix the bill have all been embraced with the exception of asylum, and that got too complex to deal with now, but we’ll deal with it in the regular order process,” King said afterwards.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, like King, switched from no to yes.
Bachmann told reporters that yesterday she was a “hell no, and now I can be for the bill today. That is a tremendous shift, and it actually happened in less than two-hours-time last night.”
So did Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), who cited how language to stop President Obama from expanding his Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program had been “watered down” yesterday and had been returned to its original form today.
“Man, we’ve been tweakin’ all night,” said Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), heading into the meeting, referring to changes to the legislative text.
Following the meltdown on the House floor, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) organized a meeting of key players on the issue in the Capitol. The group met from around 6pm-8pm, and Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) cited the meeting as a key turning point in the discussions, leading to today’s relative comity.
“I think the breakthrough came by merely holding the meeting, to be honest with you,” Salmon, a member of the border crisis working group appointed by Speaker John Boehner, said.
“What we did is, we just sat down rationally with leadership and with the people who were on the more moderate to liberal side of this bill. We sat down, and we put this in three different categories: one was the concerns regarding DACA, number two was the other-than-Mexican, number three was the issue with asylum” Bachmann added.
Though the package now has the support of key hawks like King, it is still receiving criticism from other top hawks.
Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) said he is worried that Republicans will pass a first bill only to see the second bill, addressing DACA, fall.
“If you’re asking me to vote on a message bill, which is the border bill, then I also have to be part of the most important part of the message, which is DACA itself – that’s what’s creating the problem. So don’t ask me to message on the one part and fail on the other. That’s my problem,” Fleming said.
Salmon noted that about a year ago, an amendment from King that essentially defunded DACA passed the House with only six GOP defections. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), the chairman of the moderate Tuesday Group, said he expected to vote for the DACA bill this time, although Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), who voted against King’s amendment a year ago, said he was a no.
Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) left the meeting telling Breitbart News that while both bills “have been improved,” he remains concerned about the pace of the process and would prefer that the border bill and DACA bill be combined — or at least vote on the DACA bill first.
“This vote on a very important issue to the American people is being rammed through on less than 24 hours notice,” Brooks said. He went on:
I very strongly prefer that we publish today whatever bill there is that leadership is going to put forward and give the American people time to read the bill and then share their insight with their elected congressman. Right now the American people are being shut out of the process and, as a consequence, I am very much tempted to vote on the 24 hour rule or the vote-today rule that is being offered.
“I don’t have a crystal ball, but if I was betting, I would bet that today you would see one or both bills passed, and then we would leave Washington,” Brooks said. “That is strictly a guess.”
Exiting the meeting, House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) signaled optimism about the bill, noting that House Republicans had a chance to give their input.
“We think we have a strong bill that shows we can address this border crisis that the president refused to deal with,” he said.
“We’ve always said we were going to keep working until we get our job done; the Senate[‘s] going to leave without doing their work; the president refuses to do his work, but the House is going to stay, do our work and show that we can lead and solve a problem.”
When asked if he had reached 218 votes, Scalise replied. “We’re still working on it.”
Boehner had little to say to reporters as he left the meeting. “I’m not talking to anybody…” he said.
Texas Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) entered the meeting saying “we’re going to win.”
“I think I saw a puff of white smoke,” added Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA).
“Some of the most vocal naysayers getting up and praising it, and saying that they’re going to be yeses and they’re going to be pounding the bushes for yes votes. It’s a new dawn. I’ve got to credit both Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Steve Scalise for their maiden voyage being a very successful one,” added Salmon.