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Rep. Ryan tells House GOP that Trump is supportive of immigration strategy

House Speaker Paul Ryan pauses while speaking during a press conference on Capitol Hill April 11, 2018.

June 13, 2018 12:51 pm Updated: June 13, 2018 12:52 pm

WASHINGTON - House Speaker Paul D. Ryan told Republican lawmakers Wednesday that President Donald Trump is supportive of a move to consider a pair of competing immigration bills next week that deal with the fate of young undocumented immigrants.

"We've been working hand-in-glove with the administration on this," Ryan, R-Wis., said at a news conference.

The House is planning to consider a conservative bill, tilted toward hard-line positions, that offers a limited path to permanent legal status for young undocumented immigrants. Another bill that has not been finalized would offer that status and an eventual path to citizenship, but it remains unclear whether it could pass the House.

Prospects for passage of any legislation remain uncertain as hard-line conservatives stand opposed to legalization - and they were encouraged to fight Wednesday by former White House aide Steve Bannon.

In a morning session with some two dozen conservatives, Bannon warned that passing a bill could cost the GOP control of the House in November.

"It came down to the central point he delivered, which is if any bill passes the House with amnesty in it, it fractures the party and the base would be disgusted, and it could cost the party the majority in the fall," said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, recounting Bannon's words. "The country knows what amnesty is. To restore the rule of law would be impossible if it is destroyed by putting amnesty into law."

King said many of the lawmakers at the session were receptive to Bannon's argument.

Ryan's strategy emerged as an alternative to a bold but ultimately unsuccessful move by moderates to force action on an issue that has long bedeviled the GOP. The House adjourned Tuesday two signatures short of completing a petition that would set up debate on legislation to shield "dreamers" from deportation.

Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., said that Ryan had told House members during a closed-door meeting that he had briefed the president a day earlier on the new legislative strategy - votes on the dueling immigration bills, with a separate vote in July on an agriculture worker program - and that Trump was supportive of the new approach.

"We need something signed into law," Collins said. "The president needs something signed into law."

The agreement is a victory for Ryan and other GOP leaders who feared that unleashing a wide-ranging immigration debate in the midst of midterm primary season could carry unpredictable consequences for the Republican majority. They spent weeks holding detailed talks between seemingly intractable foes inside the party, hoping to dissuade rank-and-file lawmakers from signing the "discharge" petition by demonstrating a good-faith attempt to bridge the divide.

"This is an effort to bring our caucus together, our conference together on immigration," Ryan said. "I'm very pleased. . . . What we have now is an actual chance to make law and solve this problem."

Republicans have struggled for years to arrive at any sort of immigration compromise, with pro-business Republicans who support expanding legal immigration and a possible amnesty for those living in the United States illegally sharply at odds with an ascendant populist wing that is fervently opposed to amnesty and wants to curtail any legal influx to protect American jobs and wages.

Trump's decision last year to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects hundreds of thousands of dreamers from deportation has added new urgency to the debate - and prompted the moderates to file the discharge petition in May after internal talks went nowhere.


The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.