White House: Forget what Trump said. He'll sign either immigration bill from the House.

Not the first time his advisors have had to pull him aside after a public appearance and remind him what his position on immigration is.

This morning he told a press gaggle outside the White House that he certainly wouldn’t be signing the more “moderate” of the two bills being floated in the House right now. Minor problem: The “moderate” bill, a compromise fashioned by Paul Ryan, is modeled on Trump’s own immigration compromise proposal to Congress this year. DREAMers would get legal status under it, yes, but Trump’s plan was also very generous on that point. And border hawks would get a bunch of stuff prized by POTUS — wall funding, reductions to chain migration, and the end of the diversity visa lottery.

The “moderate” bill isn’t really that moderate, in other words, unless you’re adamantly against any form of amnesty for DREAMers. (Which, again, Trump is not.) The reason POTUS may have gotten confused is that pro-amnesty centrist Republicans in the House have spent weeks trying to get 218 signatures for a discharge petition that would have forced Ryan to call a vote on multiple bills, one of which would have been a bare-bones DREAM amnesty. But they couldn’t get there. Ryan twisted arms and so the centrists ended up stuck two signatures shy of what they needed. That drained away most of their leverage.

Ryan tried to help them out, though, by cobbling together a substitute bill that included amnesty along with various more hawkish provisions. That way, if it passes, they can go back to their centrist districts this fall and crow that they managed to get an amnesty bill through. In the end, though, the “moderate” bill is fairly hawkish, as evidenced by the fact that the White House contributed to it, as Ed noted this morning. Someone forgot to remind Trump of that before his photo op. And so:

“Yes, we fully support both the Goodlatte bill and the Leadership bill. The President misunderstood the question this morning on Fox News,” the [White House] source said in an email. “He was commenting on the discharge petition/dreamers bill — not the new package. He would 100 percent sign either Goodlatte or the other bill.”…

His comments resulted in chaos on Capitol Hill, with House Republicans scrapping their plans to whip the legislation — released Thursday evening — crafted following meetings between leadership, centrists and top members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

The super-centrist discharge petition would have been a nonstarter for Trump, but as I say, it fell two signatures short. We’re onto Plan B, which is essentially Trump’s Plan A:


Key question: Does the compromise bill stand a chance of getting to Trump’s desk? Almost certainly not — but it could get interesting. It would defy political convention for Republicans to touch the third rail of American politics by passing an immigration bill so soon before a tough midterm, particularly one that includes an amnesty. But Trump is onboard, and if Trump is onboard the rest of the party has cover to be onboard too. Centrist Republicans want to vote yes so that, again, they can go home and tell their constituents that they voted for amnesty. Conservative Republicans may be okay with the bill since, between the wall funding, the chain migration provisions, and Trump’s endorsement, they won’t take too much flak in their red districts.

The tricky part is the Senate, but that’s less tricky now than it was last week. Ten days ago McConnell warned everyone that immigration wouldn’t be on the agenda this summer. Ten days later:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he’ll consider a second try at passing immigration reform in the Senate this year if the House approves a bill…

“If the House were to pass a bill that the president said he would sign, I would consider it,” he said in an interview with “Behind Closed Doors,” a Washington Examiner podcast. “The reason I’m not willing to go far beyond consideration is the experience we had back in February of spending a week on it and we couldn’t come up with anything that would get 60 votes.”

Normally a Trumpish immigration bill would be DOA in the Senate since it requires 60 votes to hurdle the filibuster. But this is where the midterms actually work for the GOP: The many red-state Dems in the chamber who are up for reelection in five months will be under tremendous pressure to support a Trump-approved immigration compromise. Nine votes is asking a lot but there are more than a few theoretically in play — Manchin, McCaskill, Tester, Heitkamp, Donnelly, Nelson, Stabenow, Casey, Brown, Baldwin, each of whom represents a state won by POTUS in 2016. You’d need all but one of those plus every Republican to defeat a filibuster; in fact, with McCain absent, you’d need all 10. And not everyone I just named is centrist-leaning. It’s a very heavy lift to pass it, but McConnell might want to bring it to the floor anyway to force the red-state Democratic centrists to choke on it. You may not put a bill on Trump’s desk but you can put McCaskill, Tester et al. in a jam.