The pro-Dreamer GOP rebellion is now just five votes shy of success after two more Republicans signed onto the petition drive Wednesday seeking to force the House to vote on legal protections for illegal immigrants in the DACA program.
Republican Reps. John Katko of New York and David A. Trott of Michigan added their names to the push, bringing the total to 20 Republicans so far. If they get to 25 names, and all of the chamber’s Democrats also sign, it will force the Dreamer debate onto the floor of the House, over the objections of GOP leaders.
The new signatures came just hours after House Speaker Paul D. Ryan pleaded with his troops not to sign, saying it undercut fellow Republicans’ control of the chamber.
“We think they’re a big mistake. They dis-unify our majority,” he told reporters after a closed-door meeting with House Republicans.
On Tuesday Mr. Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy met with President Trump at the White House to plot strategy to try to head off the petition.
They emerged saying they are determined to come up with a plan — but have yet to settle on one.
Mr. Ryan portrayed the petition drive as doomed to fail, suggesting Mr. Trump would veto whatever bill emerges from the process.
“We don’t want to advance something that we know won’t become law, and just get vetoed, even if it made it to the president’s desk. We want to advance something that has a chance of going into law, where the president would support it,” Mr. Ryan said.
But Mr. Trump has at times seemed eager to grasp whatever Dreamer bill emerges from Congress. At one point he said he’d be likely to sign whatever lawmakers pass.
The petition drive, known officially as a “discharge petition,” gives House lawmakers a way to force bills onto the floor over the objections of the majority party’s leaders.
The petition was launched May 9 by Rep. Carlos Curbelo, Florida Republican.
His plan would set up a debate involving four different immigration bills, and whichever gets the most votes would emerge the victor.
One of those bills would likely be a “clean” Dream Act, which would grant citizenship rights to millions of illegal immigrants without any other border security or immigration enforcement changes. Another bill would grant citizenship in exchange for a study of border security.
GOP leaders would be able to offer an immigration plan of their own as well.
The discharge petition’s backers are confident they will reach their goal, with a pool of more than 30 other Republicans who have yet to sign but who have signaled in the past that they support forcing the debate.