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Dems settle differences, push forward on bill to protect Dreamers

Dems settle differences, push forward on bill to protect Dreamers

Jerry Nadler

Rep. Jerry Nadler confirmed to POLITICO late Tuesday that the committee planned to mark up the bill next week. | Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

House Democrats are moving ahead with a key bill to offer protections for so-called Dreamers after largely settling an intraparty squabble over citizenship rights for people with criminal records.

The House Judiciary Committee plans to hold a hearing to debate the bill next week, teeing up quick action on the party’s signature immigration legislation, known as the Dream Act, after several weeks of delays.

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Top Democrats believe they’ve secured the votes to bring the bill to the floor after a meeting Tuesday night with moderates in which they largely backed proposed language that would toughen restrictions for people seeking citizenship who have committed certain crimes, according to multiple people in the room. Democrats also agreed to drop language related to federal financial aid for undocumented immigrants that some centrists feared could have exposed them to political attacks.

The legislation would provide a pathway to citizenship for more than 2 million undocumented people who came to the country as children — a key priority for Democrats who ran in 2018 as a counterweight to President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, confirmed to POLITICO late Tuesday that the committee planned to mark up the bill next week.

“I think it’ll pass,” Nadler said.

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, led by Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, have spent weeks coming up with tweaks to the bill that would win approval from all corners of the caucus.

Lofgren, who is also an immigration policy specialist, won over many of the centrist holdouts at a meeting Tuesday night with more than a dozen members of the Blue Dog Coalition.

Multiple lawmakers left the room saying their biggest complaints with the bill were almost entirely resolved.

Rep. Luis Correa (D-Calif.) had already been a cosponsor of the bill, but said the tougher language for criminal records had persuaded many of his moderate colleagues.

“I would have preferred it to be a little more forgiving for people who have made mistakes,” added Correa added, who said he would ultimately support the bill.

Progressive lawmakers, too, emerged from talks with Lofgren over the weekend optimistic about the bill’s moving forward.

“I’m feeling hopeful. More hopeful today than I have been for several days,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who serves on the Judiciary Committee and has worked closely with Lofgren, said Tuesday night.

But the issue also poses risks for House Democrats on the floor, with Republican leaders eager to use their procedural powers to force votes that would expose ideological divides within the caucus. The tactic has already worked once since Democrats took the majority, threatening the fate of a bill on universal background checks for gun purchases.

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