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Latest Republican Immigration Bill Fails To Win Approval In The House


For the second time in a week, an immigration bill failed on the floor of the House of Representatives. A bill backed by House leaders and President Trump fell almost a hundred votes short of the support it needed to pass this afternoon. It was a dramatic setback in an effort that's been filled with them. NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow's here in the studio to talk more. Hey there, Scott.


CORNISH: So remind us the details of this particular bill.

DETROW: Yeah. So last week, the House voted on a hard-line immigration bill backed by the Freedom Caucus that makes big restrictions to legal immigration. That failed. This was a more moderate approach. Now, that does not mean it was a bipartisan bill. This is a bill written squarely on Republican footing, but it was meant to bridge the more moderates who want to have some sort of fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and the hard-liners who want a lot of money for border security among other things. Leadership backed this bill pretty aggressively. The president supported it. It was expected to get broad support within the party. What happened was that it fell drastically short of the votes needed to pass - 100 votes short to be exact. This is a big blow for Republican leaders, and it's a big blow for the moderates who pushed to have this vote who happen to be the most endangered Republicans on the ballot this year.

CORNISH: So if we're keeping count, that's two House immigration bills that have come up for a vote. That's two failures. Earlier this year, four Senate votes came up. All of those failed. Is there any path forward on this issue?

DETROW: It does not look that way. And the weird factor about all of this is that the key issue, a permanent fix for DACA, is in itself overwhelmingly popular.

CORNISH: Everyone says they want it.

DETROW: That's right. It would pass by wide margins. But the president is insisting that anything dealing with DACA also deals with border wall and also big changes to legal immigration. When you do that, you lose the support of every Democrat, so then Republicans have to figure this out themselves. Jeff Denham is one of those moderates who pushed for this. He's a California Republican. He thought Republicans could get it together.

JEFF DENHAM: It didn't happen.


DENHAM: Now we've got to get a bipartisan bill, and I think it's going to take a lot of support and even some pressure from the American public to get both sides of the aisle to work together on it.

DETROW: But as we've seen, that's hard to do. And the big takeaway from the last few weeks is that the energy within the Republican Party is with the hard-line, tough approach to immigration, the type of thing President Trump is talking about.

CORNISH: Given how much support the conservative bill got, I mean, is this a sign that it's not just about hard-line conservatism, that this is Donald Trump's party?

DETROW: Yeah, it is. And that's one of the reasons why this was hard to pass because it was hard for lawmakers to know what the president wanted. They desperately wanted to give the president what he wanted. But within the last two weeks alone, the president said he might veto this bill. Then, he said he supported it. Then, he said it was a waste of time. And then today, he said he supported it. So lawmakers are sitting there waiting for the president to make a clear stance. He doesn't, and there's confusion.

CORNISH: Aside from this broader immigration push, there has been some talk about just passing a narrow piece of legislation that would just address the family separation issue. Now that the White House has changed some of its policy on this, is that on hold?

DETROW: Well, leadership wants to pass something addressing that, clarifying it, because there have been these ongoing questions about what happens with the court cases, as we were just hearing about. But it's hard to see how that happens now in either the Senate or the House. Democrat Adam Smith said he would view any sort of narrow family separation bill - he thinks that would have the exact same dynamic problems that this broader measure had within the Republican Party.


ADAM SMITH: They are anti-immigrant, top to bottom, and any bill they put out will reflect that, which means no Democrat will vote for it. And - I don't know - 35, 40 Republicans won't vote for it, and they're stuck in an anti-immigrant position.

DETROW: So I think the wildcard in all of this is how much immigration stays in the news and whether that leads to voters pressuring lawmakers to find a fix. But again, as we've seen over the past nine months or so, even pressure from voters might not necessarily lead to Congress to do something.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Scott Detrow. Scott, thanks.

DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.