The signatures of New York Rep. John Katko and Michigan Rep. David Trott brings the total to 20 Republicans supporting the move, five short of the number needed to force a vote if all Democrats sign on as well.
The pitch from Ryan to his party colleagues Wednesday, as recounted by multiple lawmakers leaving the meeting, came as he faces an uprising from moderate GOP members who say time is running out for him to come up with a solution on immigration, adding they are tired of waiting for action.
Texas Rep. Bill Flores paraphrased the speaker as telling Republicans to “quit messing around with the discharge petition” and that it’s “not a path to success.”
“He just said a discharge petition is not a path to success if you really want to do something on immigration,” Flores told reporters.
Other members and Flores said Ryan told his colleagues that he met with President Donald Trump the day before and that leadership and the White House were working on a plan that could ultimately pass both chambers of Congress and get the President’s signature. But he did not offer specifics, the lawmakers added.
A group of moderate Republicans are backing a plan to bypass GOP leaders by forcing a floor vote on four competing bills to preserve the Obama-era DACA program, which protected young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children. Trump has decided to end the program, though it’s currently tied up in the courts.
The move, called a discharge petition, now has 20 Republican supporters
. If 25 GOP members and all House Democrats sign the petition, it would force the vote. When Katko and Trott signed during the first vote series of the day — which is the main opportunity that lawmakers have to sign by hand the petition kept on the House floor — Republican petition backers, California’s Jeff Denham and Florida’s Carlos Curbelo, were seen walking the floor, talking to members and each other.
Ryan in his weekly news conference earlier similarly did not offer specifics on the alternative immigration plan he is developing with the White House, saying his team is “working on it.”
“Obviously we do not agree with discharge petitions. We think they’re a big mistake — they disunify our majority,” Ryan said. “We want to advance something that has a chance of going into law where the President would support it.”
Inside the meeting, Ryan mostly spoke in broad strokes about the need to balance border security and other immigration policies, said Michigan Rep. John Moolenaar.
Leaving the meeting, Denham said backers of the petition remain confident they have “more than enough votes” and believe they can hit the required number of signatures this week.
“I am confident we have the number we need now, but we’ll continue to work with leadership on this issue,” Denham said.
He and Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, who has also signed the petition, dismissed the leadership’s efforts in the room to dissuade members.
“They had a pretty strong pushback (to the petition), but there weren’t very many members there,” Upton said.
Denham also said leadership has yet to offer specifics of an alternative plan or say how much time they will need to come up with one. The issue has languished without a clear path forward since September, when Trump opted to end DACA.
“I’m not happy with inaction and this issue should be dealt with,” said New York Rep. John Faso, who has already signed on. “Doing nothing is not an option in my mind.”