GOP leaders used a backroom maneuver to block a fast-track amnesty for hundreds of young illegals who join the military.
The mini-amnesty was pushed by California GOP Rep. Jeff Denham, and it was stripped from the draft Pentagon budget on the evening of May 22 by the House Rules Committee, which is hand-picked by House Speaker Paul Ryan
Ryan’s hard-nosed backroom maneuver is a sharp contrast to his public zig-zag response to Denham’s discharge-petition push which could deliver an amnesty to 2 million illegals — often dubbed ‘dreamers’ — and also split the party into populist and business-first factions.
Supporters clearly had enough votes in the House to pass their plan if it had gone to the House floor, but the effort was blocked by the House Rules Committee.
Reps. Jeff Denham, R-California, Carlos Curbelo, R-Florida, Jimmy Panetta, D-California, and Bill Foster, D-Illinois, were trying to consider their idea as part of this year’s defense policy bill.
“I have the votes,” Denham told McClatchy. “This would pass the House.”
A Rules Committee aide said their bid failed because officials didn’t want to open up a debate on the controversial issue of Dreamers on the defense bill.
Rep. Foster posted a statement complaining about the block:
I offered this amendment because DREAMers deserve the right to serve their country, and it is unfortunate that House Republicans leadership won’t even allow a vote on this measure. It is shameful that Republicans have chosen to block patriotic young people – some of the best and brightest young minds in our nation – from serving in the military. For many of them, the United States is the only home they have ever known. The United States military would only benefit from welcoming these exceptional young people into its ranks and giving them the opportunity to serve as patriots.
The measure would have reestablished the MAVNI program, or the Military Accessions to the Vital National Interest program. The measure is not mentioned in the latest draft of the House defense budget, posted May 15.
But Denham’s MAVNI program offered minimal benefits and high costs to the GOP’s leadership
Denham’s push would have created a PR nightmare for GOP legislators by displacing several hundred young Americans from military jobs in favor of illegals. The measure provided little economic or political upside because it would have aided only several hundred illegals and, eventually, their illegal-immigrant parents.
In contrast, Denham’s amnesty discharge-petition offer higher risks and higher benefits to the GOP leadership.
It would provide an amnesty to several million illegals, so delivering extra workers to U.S. businesses, including dairy farms. It would also torpedo President Donald Trump’s four-part immigration reforms by giving the amnesty prize to pro-migration groups without getting anything in return, such as bipartisan support for reforms to block the legal loopholes used by Central American migrants to trigger “catch and release” rules.
The reforms sought by Trump would trim the inflow of legal immigrants by eliminating the visa lottery and chain migration. Over ten years, those changes would gradually pressure employers to raise wages for tens of millions of Americans and also help them buy houses by nudging down demand and real-estate prices. Those changes are strongly opposed by U.S. business groups who provide a large share of donations to the GOP’s leadership.
Denham has now gathered 21 of the 25 GOP petition signatures that he needs. If he gets 25 signatures, he will also get 193 Democratic signatures, giving him the 218 votes needed to stage a planned vote on the House floor on Jun3e 25.
The complicated vote is expected to allow many GOP legislators to vote for a doomed pro-American bill — giving them a campaign-trail talking-point for November — before allowing them to vote for and pass a disguised amnesty bill.
But even if Ryan fails to block Denham from gathering 25 GOP amnesty supporters, Ryan also has the power to block the floor vote. So far, he has not publicly threatened to block the vote, or even to deny campaign aid and committee assignments to the petition Republicans as they split the party before the November election.
GOP leaders are not trying to block Denham’s discharge petition, said Rosemary Jenks, policy director at NumbersUSA:
I have watched for far too many years the leaders of both parties shut down discharge petitions in a heartbeat with [the withdrawal of] campaign financing and committee chairmanships. It has happened over and over for decades, yet is not happening here.
Business groups are now providing campaign aid to 11 of the 16 GOP signers who are candidates in the 2016 elections, as of May 23.