An internal wrestling match over the best path forward on immigration left various factions of Republicans in the House increasingly at odds with each other Thursday, imperiling approval of a major farm policy bill, as GOP leaders struggled to prevent an arcane rules maneuver from being used to force a vote on the DACA program.
"What we've been trying to do is find an immigration bill that has 218 votes," said House Speaker Paul Ryan. "We've been laboring to get to 218."
"It's clear that we don't have 218 for a specific bill," Ryan told reporters, the first real public admission by GOP leaders that a plan favored by President Trump is not going to make it through the House without changes.
"We're working in earnest with our members to try to address all of their concerns," the Speaker added, as meetings in the Capitol among various Republicans stretched into the night.
On one hand, more conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus were trying to get GOP leaders to agree to bring up an immigration bill backed by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) - even though it won't have enough votes to pass - doing all they can to avoid a vote on a plan which would allow illegal immigrant "Dreamers" to get on a pathway to citizenship in the United States, an idea that was sure to draw support from Democrats.
While over 130 Democrats on Thursday signed onto a special "discharge petition," which would force votes on four different immigration plans, the key figure was still the number of GOP signatures, which remained at 20.
A combination of 25 Republicans - and all 193 Democrats - would set in motion a procedural push on immigration which GOP leaders want to avoid, because it might only mean a victory for a bill dealing with DACA, and not measures called for by the President on illegal immigration.
These are the 20 GOP lawmakers who have signed on so far:
One solution being floated was a minimal immigration bill dealing with DACA and border security - but the problem for the GOP in the House is fairly straightforward - if a bill does nothing on DACA it loses certain votes, and if you add DACA in, that pushes other Republicans away.