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California in Congress

Democrats to try to force vote on Dream Act with rarely successful procedural move

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Downey) speaks at a news conference on the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on Capitol Hill earlier this month. (Tasos Katopodis / European Pressphoto Agency)
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Downey) speaks at a news conference on the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on Capitol Hill earlier this month. (Tasos Katopodis / European Pressphoto Agency)

House Democrats are trying to force a vote on Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard's version of the Dream Act, they announced in a news conference Monday.

The House and Senate have less than six months to address the legal status of people brought into the country illegally as children before the program protecting them from deportation ends in March.

In the weeks since President Trump announced he was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Democrats have pushed for a quick vote on Roybal-Allard's bill, which is backed by every House Democrat and four Republicans. There are also a handful of other Republican-sponsored bills that could be considered.

To force a vote, Democrats would need a majority of the House — 218 members — to sign what's called a discharge petition to pull the bill from the House Judiciary Committee and bring it to the House floor.

Roybal-Allard, a Democrat from Downey, said she believes there is enough support to pass the bill if Democrats can get it to the House floor. Democratic leaders said they expect all House Democrats will sign the petition.

"The American people overwhelmingly oppose deporting our 'Dreamers,'" Roybal-Allard said. "But the Republican leadership is ignoring the wishes of a majority of the American people."

Democrats hold only 194 seats, and would have to convince 24 Republicans to buck their party leaders and sign the petition.

House leaders control which bills come to the floor for a vote and when. Although discharge petitions have been used in the past to shame congressional leadership into letting a bill move forward, the procedural move is rarely successful.

This month, Republican Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado filed a discharge petition for the Bridge Act, a Republican- sponsored bill to address the legal status of people brought to the country illegally as children. Five members of Congress had signed on as of Monday.

FOR THE RECORD

Sept 26, 12:38 p.m.:  An earlier version of this post identified the member of Congress who filed a discharge petition for the Bridge Act as Rep. Mike Thompson.  It was Rep. Mike Coffman.

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