Donald Trump Faces Presidency-Defining Moment as House Leaders Struggle to Find Votes for Paul Ryan Amnesty Plan

President Trump
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Washington, D.C.

House GOP leaders are having serious problems finding the votes for Speaker Paul Ryan’s amnesty plan, the so-called “compromise” legislation that will be voted on alongside a bill from House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) on Thursday.

Their struggle comes after President Donald Trump, while endorsing both pieces of legislation in a winding speech to members Tuesday evening, did not make a hard sell for either bill–just backed both of them–leaving leadership scrambling as House Majority Whip Steve Scalise hit the ground running late Tuesday to gauge support in the conference for the bills.

Trump is walking a tightrope here on immigration policy. If he goes too hard against the amnesty plans, he risks dividing the GOP and losing moderates ahead of an all-important midterm election. If he goes too hard for the amnesty plans, he risks similarly dividing the party by losing his base voters–and as, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs says, losing 50 seats in the midterm elections. Fires like these forge presidencies–or incinerate them–and how Trump handles the next 72 hours could very well determine if he is impeached by a potentially-Democrat-controlled House in the next Congress or if he is re-elected in 2020.

Infuriate enough of the base and lose the midterms, and then a newly reinstalled Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democrats impeach Trump. Lose enough of the middle, and the same outcome may happen. But handle it perfectly, and power through Democrat obstruction, stop bad amnesty legislation, and hold back the globalist open borders pro-amnesty Republicans as the party shifts Trump’s way in primaries, the president could, as the Republican National Committee likes to say, “defy history,” hold the House, and bolster his majority in the Senate.

Assuming both bills fail, as current estimates on vote counts predict, what Trump–and weak House GOP leaders–do next is critical. Do they try another bill that further divides Republicans? Do they move forward with executive actions that may or may not soothe tensions nationally and internationally on the issue? Or, do they take the issue directly to the American people again as a major campaign focus in November, much like Trump did in 2016 and Republicans did in 2016? That choice, or some combination of those options, could very well define whether Republicans can hold the House majority and add Senate seats despite Trump’s wild ride in his first two years in the Oval Office.

The executive order Trump signed on Wednesday acts as a sort of a strategic retreat on this front, buying Trump time while keeping the framework of his original zero tolerance policies at the border intact. The House bills–and Congress generally speaking–probably cannot get him out of this mess in the end, and as he looks to the future after the House fails to pass Ryan’s plan as expected, Trump will more likely than not, sources close to him say, go it alone and trust his gut. That’s what he does best, power through the muck on his own, and Republican leaders craving an amnesty will be left in the dust.

Fueling this fire that could make or break his tenure in the White House is a media-and-Hollywood-driven emotional crisis along the border regarding the enforcement of immigration law so illegal alien families are no longer caught and released as family units when coming into the country. Trump on Wednesday afternoon signed an executive order that families be kept together in detention centers, rather than released  together or separated into different child centers and adult facilities as the current administration zero tolerance policy has it.

Meanwhile, the new guard of economic nationalist GOP candidates in Trump’s mold have seized on this issue as a lightning rod against their Democratic opponents on the campaign trail from Florida and West Virginia to Montana and Wisconsin and beyond. For the political efforts to be successful, though, and for Republicans to hold their majority in the House and significantly bolster their Senate majority, Trump has to navigate his party successfully through a minefield that does not end in an base-crushing amnesty like Paul Ryan’s “compromise” legislation but also makes it clear he truly tried. Generally speaking, immigration is a winner at the polls for Republicans despite the party establishment’s allergy to running on securing the country and protecting American workers as a central campaign theme.

When Trump did it in 2016, promising a wall and deportation of all illegal aliens and key immigration reforms like E-Verify, an end to catch-and-release, and so much more, he shocked the world by defeating 16 other accomplished Republican politicians and taking the GOP nomination away from more “qualified” candidates. He did it again in the general election, trouncing Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton by winning 30 and a half states–306 electoral votes. His drubbing of the former first lady of the United States, who went on to serve as a U.S. Senator and then as a Secretary of State, was predicated on these immigration principles that Ryan’s amnesty plan directly violates.

Republicans, in 2014, took control of the U.S. Senate–and held their House majority–in a historic swing election that also focused on immigration. Then President Barack Obama had been plotting an additional executive amnesty for parents of illegal aliens to supplement his 2012 DACA program–something that became a central focus of the race that year–along with the rise of radical Islamic terrorism through the now basically defunct Islamic State and its connections to refugees and immigration, as well as an Ebola scare in Africa that ended up hitting Texas as well.

Fast forward to September 2017 and all of a sudden Trump, in his first year as president, has ended DACA. When he did, he gave Congress a six-month timeline to develop a legislative replacement. Congress failed to hit that March 6 deadline. Now, thanks to chicanery that some members believe was instigated by Ryan himself, the debate is raging again–and faces critical votes on Thursday.

GOP leadership in the House has had serious problems wrangling a fiercely divided conference on this hotly contested issue. Pro-amnesty moderates reject the Goodlatte bill because it is tough on enforcement. Anti-amnesty pro-Trump conservatives reject the Ryan amnesty bill–the so-called “compromise”–because it is not tough enough and would be the biggest amnesty in U.S. history. The Goodlatte bill, while it will be voted on as well as the Ryan amnesty plan on Thursday, is presumed dead with zero chance of passage. The Ryan bill is the only one with any chance, however slim that may be.

To get the Ryan bill across the finish line and pass it, GOP leaders needed a strong push and hard sell–one they did not get–from President Trump himself to win over skeptical leaders of the party’s new guard. Multiple sources across the House GOP conference, from moderates to conservatives and everywhere in between, tell Breitbart News that Ryan’s amnesty plan does not have the support of anywhere near the number of members necessary to pass the bill. Everyone, though, on any side of this–and there are many sides, not just two, plainly for or against–says it all rides on Trump. And the path Trump and his White House seem to have taken, at least from his initial and subsequent limited commentary on the Ryan amnesty plan, is to tacitly support it but not enough to ensure passage–thereby watching it go down in flames while blaming Congress for failure to pass anything and then reaping the political benefits of immigration as the centerpiece issue on the campaign trail, a strategic misstep Democrats have conveniently made yet again, just like they did in 2014 and 2016.

“The president came in last night to kind of rally the Republican conference in regards to this bill,” Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), a hard-liner who is not backing the Ryan amnesty plan, said on Breitbart News Daily on Wednesday morning on SiriusXM Patriot Channel 125. “Leadership tried to prop it up, but I really don’t think they have the votes in regards to either one, the Goodlatte or the ‘compromise.’ There’s problems with these and that is that we’re negotiating with ourselves and we’re not really looking at fulfilling the mission that we promised the American people. Politicians are misreading the tea leaves. The American people want border security. They want to define our laws and to uphold our laws. They’re not willing to just compromise who comes in this country or the people that think it’s a right versus a privilege. So I just don’t think that there’s enough steam. They’re going to try to do it this week, and they’ve been whipping and I just don’t think that they have the numbers.”

Trump did support the bill, for what it’s worth, but not strongly. In his hourlong address to members of the House GOP conference, the president talked about fighter jets, mocked Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) for losing his primary, trade policy, the military, tax and regulatory cuts, and opioid legislation.

In other words, it was exactly what GOP leaders in the House–especially Ryan, whose lifelong legacy rides on Thursday’s vote on his amnesty plan–feared: Trump’s heart is not in this game, no matter what they say, and they do not have the juice to force their bill to passage without his fervent endorsement and whipping of votes.

“It’s clear that his heart’s not in the Ryan amnesty, and as a result it won’t pass the House,” a senior House GOP aide for a conservative member who has not yet announced his planned opposition to the Ryan plan told Breitbart News. “His instincts are better than the bad advice he gets from congressional leadership.”

New polling from the president’s pollster John McLaughlin of McLaughlin and Associates, for the record, suggests that members are in serious trouble if they vote for the Ryan amnesty plan. Interestingly, the data shows that any member who votes for Goodlatte or for the Ryan amnesty plan endangers their re-election chances, says Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin, whose group commissioned the survey.

“As House Republicans consider their votes on the Goodlatte-McCaul bill and the Ryan ‘Leadership’ bill, they should be aware that voting for either bill – both of which contain amnesty for a certain class of illegal immigrants – will endanger their reelection campaigns,” Martin said announcing the poll results, which can be viewed in full on the organization’s website. “These new survey results prove the point: Likely voters do not support amnesty, and will punish Republican Congressmen who vote for it.”

At least six other House GOP members, all of whom requested anonymity, as well as a dozen plus House GOP aides say that the Ryan amnesty bill will fail on Thursday. Two of those House GOP members are voting for it, even though they know it will fail, and three of them are absolutely voting against it. One is uncertain now, but leaning heavily against it and noted to Breitbart News that they were upset that Speaker Ryan’s leadership PAC spent millions on signers of the s0-called “discharge petition” that put the conference in this mess to begin with, but not nearly as much on other members.

“Ryan’s priorities are out of whack,” that House member, who asked for anonymity, said. “Why was he pushing all this money to discharge petition signers? Was he really against it? Come on. Follow the money. The lame duck Speaker is using his influence and control of party financial resources to push the agenda he really cares about.”

What this member was referring was the madness that started the latest iteration of this entire mess, a discharge petition by radical open borders pro-amnesty Republicans that threatened to hand control of the House floor to Democrats in a desperate bid to revive amnesty talks after the last round failed earlier this year. Previous efforts, begun after Trump formally announced an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive amnesty last fall, failed to produce anything by the Trump-imposed arbitrary March 6 deadline for a deal. As Congress moved on to other matters, and Ryan announced his planned impending retirement at the end of this year, it seemed as though the issue was over and done with through the midterm elections and would be on hold until after Nov. 6.

But then the group of pro-amnesty Republicans, including Reps. Jeff Denham (R-CA), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Will Hurd (R-TX), Mike Coffman (R-CO), and Steve Knight (R-CA), offered up a discharge petition which would in theory allow them to circumvent leadership and force a vote on a DACA amnesty plan if they obtained 218 signatures. All 193 Democrats were expected to sign onto the discharge petition, and the members were within a hair’s breadth of obtaining the necessary 25 Republican signatures for the bill. Denham, Curbelo, Hurd, Coffman, and Knight have all received millions of dollars in financial backing from Ryan’s leadership PAC amid this craziness, something that many believe was a sign Ryan–long a proponent of amnesty for illegal aliens and of open borders policies–was the true leader of the discharge petition effort as part of a scheme to force another immigration debate and floor votes on something similar to what he has always wanted.

The problem for the pro-Ryan amnesty plan forces is that Trump was not explicit in saying members must vote for the Ryan bill and the Goodlatte bill. He just said he supports both, which provides everyone with enough wiggle room to vote however they would like and still support the president. They can vote against both bills, and say they love Trump’s campaign commentary. They can vote for Goodlatte but oppose the leadership bill. Or they can vote for both. But having that openness and that wiggle room makes it extraordinarily difficult for somebody like Scalise, the whip, to whip votes for this because members are not feeling real pressure from Trump or the White House–and seemingly on purpose–to do it.

Scalise is trying, nonetheless, per reports from Fox News’s Chad Pergram:

But, per Pergram, Scalise is also falsely identifying the bill as “the President’s bill.”

Scalise’s lie is exposed in the fact that the president does not oppose either bill–or support either bill–depending on how one looks at it. The White House, and the president, support the Goodlatte bill. They also support the Ryan bill. But not as clearly as it being that one bill is Trump’s bill. It is not–they are explicitly the Goodlatte and the Ryan bills.

One of the seven congressmen who refuses to vote for Ryan’s amnesty plan but has not yet publicly identified himself told Breitbart News, on condition of anonymity, that Scalise should immediately resign should he fail to deliver the votes for this bill given his role in the chaos and for falsely tagging Trump with Ryan’s amnesty plan. “Look, the guy has been through a lot, I know,” that House member said, referring to how Scalise survived being shot at last year’s congressional baseball game practice. “But we can’t risk the entire party on this stupidity anymore. It’s time to actually start winning.” The member specifically cited Scalise calling the Ryan amnesty plan “the president’s bill” when “that is a lie and he knows it is false.”

Scalise’s office has not replied to a request asking for a response to the congressman saying he should resign for falsely tagging Trump with Ryan’s failures on the amnesty bill. But his team did say that the Whip Team’s standard practice never reveals whip counts ahead of votes, and also said the president had Scalise and more than a dozen other members at the White House on Wednesday to push for this.

It is all an exercise in futility since nothing will make it to the president’s desk without Democrat support in the Senate or a rules change. If the House does somehow gather itself and pass something, the Senate will not take it up per Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer–whose Democrats control enough votes to block this from seeing the light of day. Schumer does not like the parts of the bill that deal with slashing legal immigration levels, finding himself in league with the Chamber of Commerce and business groups who look at it the same way. Such is the immigration debate conundrum in modern American politics: The different sides are so dug in that until something forces somebody to give on something, this issue is stuck in the mud. The only thing that can really break the logjam is a historic election or two or three that forces political partisans to pull themselves out of their corners and back to the table.

Senate woes aside, the House istself really cannot seem to get its own act together on this front.

“Well, I think what ends up happening is is that leadership is confronted that they don’t have the numbers–you may see the administration start making some phone calls to try to twist some arms to make that happen–but I really don’t think that the president’s full heart is behind this,” Gosar, the Arizona congressman, said on Breitbart News Daily of the Ryan amnesty plan on Wednesday. “He realizes that was the winning message in 2016 as you said earlier. We got to get tough on our immigration on our borders–and do it the right way, not the wrong way. So, maybe it is some of these things that we start taking up in small pieces like the Meadows bill on family units. I haven’t looked at it, I’m just talking off the top of my head here, but maybe what ends up happening is you can’t pass a big bill and all of a sudden you’re forced to start passing some of the smaller bills.”

Gosar added that “we don’t have to bend to a bad deal” but that “we have to listen to the American people and they will set us straight.”

“The way they are currently written, no I don’t think that they got the numbers [for either Goodlatte or Ryan],” Gosar said. “Maybe I’m wrong, but I just don’t think they got the numbers. Now, maybe some changes with those, now maybe there’s the potential of getting it out of the House, but then you’d have to navigate the Senate and most people, as would I, do not see how you get to 60 votes in the Senate.”

Most importantly, Gosar said that if the Ryan amnesty plan does somehow pass the House, it would “absolutely” hurt the GOP in the midterm elections.

“What ends up happening is, what we have we done to our base?” Gosar said. “You look at the overspending in the $1.3 trillion omnibus bill. We really haven’t done much for the American people, the promises kept. We throw money at the opioid problems without a clear defined message. This actually would hurt us. You look at Arizona’s [recent special election], the Trent Franks seat, our base didn’t show up. That’s why when you have an R plus 18, Debbie Lesko [the GOP candidate who won that special election] won by just four points. If our base feels lethargic, you’re going to feel that blue wave. We don’t want to kick our base in the teeth. What we want to do is engage them and build that crescendo and show them that we’re going to do things right. It definitely does hurt us in the midterms if we do an amnesty type bill.”

LISTEN TO REP. PAUL GOSAR ON BREITBART NEWS DAILY:

Gosar, though, is hardly the only one calling out leadership and saying this mess does not stand a chance in its current form at passage.

According to a report in The Hill newspaper, Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA)–a centrist moderate Republican–the Ryan amnesty bill is going to be a lot harder than many thought to get to passage. “I think getting this compromise bill to the finish line is going to be a lot more challenging than I would have anticipated,” Costello said. “The conservatives aren’t going along with it.”

That report also quotes early Trump supporter Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) as saying he is apprehensive about the bill and leaning against it. “I know other members who are apprehensive,” DesJarlais, a Freedom Caucus member, said. “I think [the vote] will be really close.”

In its own report citing “multiple GOP lawmakers and aides,” Politico wrote on Wednesday that “senior House Republicans learned late Tuesday night that they were far from the 218 votes needed to pass a compromise immigration package after doing a whip check on the bill.”

But leadership, per Breitbart News’ own conversations with members and key staff across the GOP side on Capitol Hill, is failing to make the case and Trump is not giving them the bailout they need. That could, in the end, set up the dream scenario for Republicans who support the president: Nothing passes, it turns into a midterm election issue, reluctant Republicans are forced to run on immigration, they hold the House and significantly bolster their majority in the Senate, and Trump looks to make a new deal with a stronger GOP congress that is much more in line with his way of thinking next year.

Reinforcements are on the way for Trump’s vision for the GOP, as candidates like Katie Arrington and Dr. Mark Harris–much more pro-Trump, both of them, than the House incumbents they defeated in primaries–replace Never Trump or establishment members like Reps. Mark Sanford (R-SC) and Robert Pittenger (R-NC). A slew of new candidates is rising up in Trump’s image in places like Minnesota, where Trump is rallying Wednesday evening in Duluth, Nevada, Indiana, West Virginia, Ohio, Florida, throughout the South, out West, and across the Rust Belt and heartland as well.

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