For weeks they’d been negotiating with Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows in a quest to clinch an immigration deal that could pass the House. But whenever the two sides got close, they said, immigration hard-liners would ask for more. Then, on the morning of a scheduled June 21 vote, moderates got their hands on an explosive missive from the Freedom Caucus’ top staffer: an email warning group members that voters would punish them for backing any bill with a whiff of “amnesty.”
“This is bull—-,” Rep. Tom MacArthur scolded Meadows at a meeting in Speaker Paul Ryan’s office that day. The New Jersey Republican, who had worked closely with Meadows in the past and wanted a deal, demanded to know why Meadows appeared to be backing away from a bill he helped craft.
Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), a leader of the pro-immigration reform centrists, read the Freedom Caucus email aloud, as Meadows insisted he had no knowledge of it. Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) said he’d been warned not to trust the Freedom Caucus, seething that he’d never make that mistake again.
And so it was that nearly two months of intense intraparty negotiations broke down.
Their “compromise” bill died Wednesday afternoon, 121 to 301 — the latest in a string of high-profile failures to overhaul the nation’s immigration system and an embarrassment to House GOP leaders and President Donald Trump. While several top conservatives had been in the room helping write the bill, every single one of them voted against it.