House GOP: Trump’s immigration plea may fall short

In a freewheeling address behind closed doors, the president promised Republicans he’d support legislation that he panned just days ago.

President Donald Trump told House Republicans to send him an immigration bill dealing with Dreamers and migrant families being separated at the border in a freewheeling closed-door address Tuesday.

But Trump’s call to action does not appear to be enough to push newly crafted Republican immigration legislation over the finish line, according to multiple senior House Republicans and wary conservatives — at least not yet.

And the president said nothing about ending the hugely controversial policy of separating migrant families on the border, an issue that has set off a political firestorm. Republican leaders on Capitol Hill fear that the issue could lead to a backlash at the polls in November.

Yet senior House Republicans learned late Tuesday night that they were far from the 218 votes needed to pass a compromise immigration package after doing a whip check on the bill, according to multiple GOP lawmakers and aides.

Some conservatives warned that Trump was not specific enough in his support of the leadership’s bill. Others simply continued to worry about blowback from the far right for supporting anything that could be labeled “amnesty.”

“It did not move the needle at all,” said one top Republican lawmaker who has not decided how he will vote. “He made comments like ‘I’m behind it 1,000 percent,’ but what is ‘it’?”

At the very least, Trump’s message gave GOP leadership the green light to move toward a vote on the legislation that has angered outside anti-immigration groups.

Speaker Paul Ryan and his top lieutenants have never been under the impression that the legislation would easily sail through their chamber.

Rather, they’ve tried to lower expectations, seeking simply to kill a discharge petition — a method for getting a bill onto the House floor for a vote — being pushed by moderate members who threatened to team with Democrats on immigration.

Still, Republican leaders and Trump could try to build support for the compromise proposal over the next few days. The president has not started making calls on the bill, but conservatives are watching to see if he will. That, they acknowledge, could change things.

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