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Hours ahead of House immigration votes, Trump questions point of passing the bills

“What is the purpose of the House doing good immigration bills" that are unlikely to make it out of the Senate, Trump tweeted Thursday.
Image: U.S. President Trump holds a rally in Duluth, Minnesota
Trump's messaging has, at times, presented hurdles for House GOP leadership.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

WASHINGTON — Once again this week, President Donald Trump appeared to throw a wrench into the immigration debate on Capitol Hill — this time, by suggesting hours before the House was to vote Thursday on a pair of GOP immigration measures that passing the bills would be a waste of time.

“What is the purpose of the House doing good immigration bills when you need 9 votes by Democrats in the Senate, and the Dems are only looking to Obstruct (which they feel is good for them in the Mid-Terms). Republicans must get rid of the stupid Filibuster Rule — it is killing you!” Trump tweeted.

The president’s tweet, another of his repeated calls to eliminate the Senate’s filibuster for regular legislation, came as the House prepared to vote on a more conservative measure unveiled by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., followed by an early evening vote on compromise immigration legislation.

The president's messaging may be unhelpful to GOP leaders, but not necessarily an inaccurate assessment of the legislative odds. The bills would most likely be dead on arrival in the Senate — if either makes it that far.

“Republican leaders have long stated the two votes today on immigration are to allow members to be on the record on immigration and to avoid the discharge petition," an attempt by moderate members to force immigration votes, a senior GOP leadership aide told NBC News. "It is more member management than anything else. Both of these bills are expected to fail.”

And so three senior GOP sources said that while the tweet doesn't help, they actually don’t view it as that damaging to the compromise bill's chances — because both bills were already expected to fail. The tweet, they said, is just the president lowering expectations.

As Trump tweeted about the futility of the House votes, Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen was on Capitol Hill for a national security forum, urging Congress to act on the issue. Asked what will happen to children who have already been separated from their parents, she said, “We issued our executive order yesterday — we are implementing it.”

For the past several days, the president has presented GOP leadership with additional hurdles in their bid to pass immigration legislation.

On Tuesday evening, when the president came to Capitol Hill and huddled with House Republicans behind closed doors, many members left the meeting confused about whether Trump supported either bill, or both.

The following day, after administration officials reiterated that the White House could do nothing unilaterally to end the separation of migrant children from their parents at the border, Trump signed an executive order temporarily ending the policy — alleviating pressure on the House GOP to quickly pass a legislative fix, the single most unifying element of the House compromise bill.

The Goodlatte bill is not expected to garner the necessary votes needed to pass in the House, and lawmakers were uncertain Thursday whether the compromise bill would cross the finish line in the House. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus, which was involved in negotiations that led to the compromise bill, was seen arguing with Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., during the final vote series on Wednesday on the House floor.

A Meadows spokesperson later tweeted that the congressman had since spoken with Ryan, and was "working to resolve a communication issue on the compromise immigration bill.”

Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Nielsen were privately lobbying lawmakers Wednesday to support the compromise bill.