Washington.- President Donald Trump ignited eleventh-hour confusion Friday over Republican efforts to push immigration through the House next week, saying he won’t sign a “moderate” package.
A top House Republican said the chamber would not tackle the issue without Trump’s backing. The tumult erupted days before GOP leaders planned campaignseason votes on a pair of Republican bills: a hard-right proposal and a middle-ground plan negotiated by the party’s conservative and moderate wings. Despite their policy clashes, both factions have been eager for the votes to be held as a way to show voters where they stand approaching an election in which GOP House control is at stake.
“I’m looking at both of them,” Trump said on “Fox and Friends” on Fox News. “I certainly wouldn’t sign the more moderate one.” The compromise bill includes provisions easing the high-profile problem of children being separated from parents when the families are caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally.
It would mandate that families be kept together for as long as they are in the custody of the Homeland Security Department, whose agencies staff border facilities and enforce immigration laws. Spotlighting the political sensitivity of the issue, congressional Republicans have distanced themselves from the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border.
The White House has cited the Bible in defending its “zero tolerance” approach to illegal border crossings. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said that Trump backs the compromise plan. GOP aides said Trump’s remark caught party leaders off-guard, and White House officials did not immediately respond to requests to clarify the president’s comment.
While the conservative measure is seen as virtually certain to lose, party leaders have nurtured hopes that the compromise bill could pass. Trump’s backing has been seen as crucial, and his apparent pullback of support would be an embarrassing setback. Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., the GOP’s No. 2 vote counter, told reporters that leaders were seeking “clarity” from the White House about what Trump meant. Meanwhile, he suggested that plans for votes next week were being reconsidered.
“House Republicans are not going to take on immigration without the support and endorsement of President Trump,” McHenry said. Democrats are expected to solidly oppose both GOP bills, giving Republicans little leeway for losing support.