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Immigration And Trade Policies Frustrate GOP Lawmakers

Jun 12, 2018
Originally published on June 12, 2018 9:16 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And I'm Rachel Martin in Singapore, where President Trump has been meeting with North Korea's Leader Kim Jong Un. But Republicans back in Washington are growing frustrated with some issues closer to home. Several moderate House Republicans are close to forcing a vote to break a stalemate on immigration. And several Senate Republicans want to confront President Trump on his trade policies. Those two issues could come to a head this week on Capitol Hill. NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow joins us now to walk us through it.

Hey, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey there, Rachel.

MARTIN: So this could be a big week for immigration, although I feel like I have said that before...

DETROW: (Laughter).

MARTIN: ...Over the course of the past few months. Is there a path forward right now for a GOP-approved immigration plan?

DETROW: Well, you hit on it right there. We've talked about this over and over and over and over again since September when President Trump first began the process of expiring the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and the facts have remained the same. And that is that there is not a path forward in a Republican-controlled House and Senate for any sort of immigration deal. And that's because the popular idea of providing a path to citizenship, or at least permanent legal status for DACA protectees, is something that's very popular but there are not enough Republican votes alone to do that because of President Trump's hardline immigration positions, among other reasons. So you need some Democratic votes. But Democrats are not going to vote for any plan that goes as far as the White House is insisting on really making drastic changes to the legal immigration process. So that leaves us in the stalemate we've been in since September.

MARTIN: But this is going to be politically difficult ahead of midterms for some Republicans who represent kind of purple-shaded districts, isn't it?

DETROW: Absolutely. And that is why moderate House Republicans are pretty worried. And that's why they're taking this very unusual step of this House procedure called a discharge petition which would force a vote on the House floor against the will of House Speaker Paul Ryan and other House Republican leaders. That's a big deal. It hardly ever happens. And they've been gathering the signatures. They only need three more signatures, two more Republicans, to sign on to force this vote. Now, moderate Republicans have been holding off because they don't want to embarrass Ryan and other leaders, but they're saying, look, we need to do something about this, we're tired of talking about this and having it not go anywhere. And they're feeling the political pressure in their districts because any year like this, where Democrats feel like they can make big gains, it's the moderate Republicans who would be the most likely to lose those seats. And that's the hard thing because at the same time you have a party where a key part of its base doesn't want any sort of path forward and wants tougher immigration policies.

MARTIN: Right. In seconds remaining, we have to talk about trade because this was a huge flashpoint with G7 allies, although that relationship is a little fraught right now between the U.S., Canada and France, in particular. Is this going to be tough for free-trading Republicans?

DETROW: It is. They are not happy right now, but it looks like there is not going to be that big showdown vote that was hinted at on the Senate floor. Tennessee Republican Bob Corker is pushing for a bill allowing Congress to block President Trump from imposing tariffs on allies on national security grounds like he's doing. Several Republicans support that idea. This is one of the areas where there has been Republican pushback, but the fact is Republican leaders do not want a vote going against the president this close to an election. So they're going to talk about that in a meeting today.

MARTIN: All right. NPR's Scott Detrow. Thanks, Scott.

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