By Richard Cowan and Amanda Becker
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have not yet rounded up the votes needed to pass immigration legislation they plan to take up later on Thursday, a member of the House Republican leadership said.
“Well, we’re working with our members. Obviously we have to get 218 votes and we’re working hard to get there,” Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the head of the House Republican Conference, told Fox News Channel.
“We’re not there yet but we’re working on it,” she said.
The House plans to vote on two bills designed to halt the practice of separating families entering the United States illegally and address a range of other immigration issues.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday stepped back from his administration’s practice of separating immigrant families that illegally cross the border, which had been part of his so-called zero tolerance policy on illegal immigration. He signed an executive order to stop the separations but it was unclear how children already taken from their parents would be reunited.
The policy shift faces legal challenges because of a court order that put a 20-day cap on how long minors can be detained, and the Trump administration has called for legislation to find a permanent fix.
Both House bills, backed by Trump but opposed by Democrats and immigration advocacy groups, would fund the wall Trump has proposed along the U.S. border with Mexico and reduce legal migration, in part by denying visas for some relatives of U.S. residents and citizens living abroad.
The more conservative bill would deny the chance of future citizenship to “Dreamers” – immigrants brought illegally into the United States years ago when they were children.
Even if a bill clears the House, it would face an uncertain future in the Senate, where lawmakers are considering different measures and where Republicans would need at least nine senators from the Democratic caucus to join them to ensure any bill could overcome procedural hurdles.
“What is the purpose of the House doing good immigration bills when you need 9 votes by Democrats in the Senate, and the Dems are only looking to Obstruct,” Trump said in a tweet on Thursday as he renewed his call for a change in Senate rules to allow legislation to move with a simple majority.
(Reporting by Tim Ahmann; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Trott)