(CNN)Republicans leaders late Tuesday night managed to pull together a long-awaited immigration agreement that satisfied both moderates and conservatives in their ranks, just moments before a self-imposed but significant deadline expired for a moderate-led insurrection on the issue.
As the talks wore on, discussions moved away from policy — which had some general agreement but could take days more to sort out — and toward what would be enough to stop a procedural move that would force the issue to the floor at the end of June on moderates’ terms.
“Members across the Republican Conference have negotiated directly and in good faith with each other for several weeks, and as a result, the House will consider two bills next week that will avert the discharge petition and resolve the border security and immigration issues,” Huse Speaker Paul Ryan’s spokeswoman AshLee Strong said late Tuesday. “The full Conference will discuss tomorrow morning and we’ll have more to share at that point.”
The deal came after shuttle diplomacy between moderate and conservatives who met with leadership, then separately, then communicated back and forth.
The deal was announced as the House floor gaveled out for the evening — running out the clock on moderates’ deadline on their discharge petition, a rarely-used procedural maneuver they’ve been working on for months, which would bypass leadership and force a vote on four different immigration proposals. Under House rules, moderates needed to reach 218 signatures on their petition by Tuesday evening if they wanted to hold a vote by the end of June, but the remaining moderates had held off on signing in hopes that all parties could strike a deal.
If enough signatures were gathered in the coming days, the vote could still be scheduled for next month, but passing the deadline would have been a significant blow to moderates who have threatened for weeks to deliver enough signatures.
Late Tuesday night, Rep. Henry Cuellar, of Texas, became the last of all Democrats to sign the petition — meaning only two Republicans were needed for the procedural maneuver to succeed. But that appeared to not be enough support to cross the required threshold.
After a more than hour-long meeting with leadership Tuesday, moderate Republicans emerged cautiously optimistic that they were moving toward a deal that would bolster border security in exchange for a permanent solution for recipients the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. But, all eyes hinged Tuesday night on whether conservatives could back such a plan or at the very least allow a plan to move forward on the House floor.
Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Republican from Florida, an original backer of the moderate discharge petition, said he was hopeful there would be a compromise on an immigration deal, but that the discharge petition was still an option to force a vote if a deal couldn’t be reached in time.
“They’ve been texting us,” Curbelo said. “We just spoke to some of them, and they know the floor will be open for some time tonight.”
Meanwhile, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, emerged from the conservative meeting late Tuesday saying he’d talked to moderates about what conservatives could accept.
“I think their concern — and I don’t want to speak for them because obviously they are very capable of speaking for themselves … is if they turn off the discharge petition and then we voted against the rule, it would set them back to ground zero and so I’ve tried to let them know the terms in which we could support a rule to move a bill moving forward.”
Talks were stuck for weeks on the issue of what would happen to the young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children that were protected under DACA, but in the past week there has been a growing consensus around a plan put forth by conservative Rep. Raul Labrador that would create a new kind of visa that would be usable by DACA recipients but also more immigrants, thus not creating a “special” path to citizenship for only undocumented immigrants. Along with that proposal is billions for border security and a suite of legal changes that would give the government far more immigration enforcement powers. Also in order to create the new visa, there would be cuts to the current legal immigration system, including in some family categories.