WASHINGTON (CNN) – House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy confirmed Thursday the House will vote on a Democratic bill to dismantle US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, more commonly known as ICE.
It’s a move Democrats are already calling a “political stunt” since Republicans, who hold the majority, broadly oppose the bill and it would not pass.
House Speaker Paul Ryan fiercely criticized the effort to abolish ICE earlier Thursday in a news conference.
“They have really jumped the sharks on the left,” Ryan said. “This is the agency that gets gangs out of communities, that helps prevent drugs from flowing into our schools, that rescues people from human trafficking. They want to get rid of this agency?”
“It’s the craziest position I’ve ever seen,” Ryan continued. “And they are just they are tripping over themselves to move too far to the left. They are out of the mainstream of America. And that is one the reasons why I feel very good about this fall.”
Asked why Republicans, who control the House floor, will bring the bill to the floor anyway, McCarthy told reporters the goal is to “have a debate about it.”
“The Democrats have a bill,” he said. “This is what they communicate with.”
A small group of Democrats, led by Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, introduced legislation that would dismantle ICE and create a commission to provide recommendations to Congress on how the government “can implement a humane immigration enforcement system,” according to a statement. The issue comes after the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy, which referred all people who cross the border illegally for criminal prosecution on top of immigration proceedings.
Republicans and many Democrats broadly oppose the idea. But bringing a Democratic bill to the floor could be seen as a way to force Democrats to go on the record with an effort that could be politically risky ahead of the midterms.
In a statement Thursday night, Pocan — along with the bill’s co-sponsors, Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Adriano Espaillat — accused Republican leaders of launching “a political stunt” and pledged to vote against their own legislation.
“We know Speaker (Paul) Ryan is not serious about passing our ‘Establishing a Humane Immigration Enforcement System Act,’ so Members of Congress, advocacy groups, and impacted communities will not engage in this political stunt,” they said. “If Speaker Ryan puts our bill on the floor, we plan to vote ‘no’ and will instead use the opportunity to force an urgently needed and long-overdue conversation on the House floor.”
The members said they would talk about the issue of migrant families separated at the border and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Trump ended but who’s specific future has been held up in the courts.
Ryan said as recently as last month that he didn’t want to bring bills to the floor that would never get the President’s signature. His comments came as he tried to stop a moderate Republican-led effort to allow votes on multiple immigration bills, including bills that had Democratic support.
GOP leaders instead negotiated a deal with moderates to vote on a pair of newly-crafted legislation by Republicans that was more likely to get the President’s support, though neither bill ultimately passed the House.
Asked about Ryan’s previous comments against bringing bills to the floor that would never get the President’s signature, McCarthy said, “Well, actually just wait ’til I give the schedule out.”
“I’ve got a lot of bills to send over to the Senate,” he said, when asked about it again.