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Moderates Press House Republicans For An Immigration Deal


Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has implored House Republicans to, quote, "act like a majority." So does that mean even if you disagree with the leadership, you're just supposed to vote with them anyway? Well, some moderate Republicans have said no, that's not the way it works. And on the issue of immigration, they threatened this week to team up with Democrats to force an immigration vote on the floor. Trying to keep his family together, Speaker Ryan brought Republican members together in a room yesterday.

Mike Coffman is a Republican representing a swing district outside Denver, Colo. He's one of the members who has been pressuring his leadership. He's on the line with us.

Congressman, good morning.

MIKE COFFMAN: Good morning.

GREENE: So I know you and fellow Republicans all got together yesterday. After that meeting, are you still working with Democrats here on this so-called discharge petition that really would force your leader's hand?

COFFMAN: I'm encouraged right now. Thanks to the pressure of the discharge petition, Republican leadership has gotten the message that this is an important issue. And it's important to bring something to the floor that we all can vote on.

GREENE: So you feel like you accomplished something already by threatening to work with Democrats?

COFFMAN: Sure. Well, we have been working with Democrats. And I think working on a bipartisan basis is a good thing. But the fact is that Republican leadership controls what legislation goes to the floor. But we've been able to do this discharge petition and working with the Democrats to force the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives to bring a measure to the floor to help these young people, who, through no fault of their own, were taken to this country as children, grew up here, went to school here, oftentimes know of no other country.

GREENE: Well, can I just ask you about them? Because I do want to get a sense of how close you are to Democrats on immigration. I mean, for the people you're talking about who were brought to the United States illegally as children, is it just protecting them from deportation you're interested in? Or would you go farther and give them a path to citizenship?

COFFMAN: No, and I think that's a sticking point. I believe that an earned path to citizenship based on affirmative behaviors, such as achieving education goals, work history or military service.

GREENE: I just think about some of your fellow Republicans who are in districts where there are a lot of voters who have been telling them that they want a harder line on immigration. I think about Congressman Dave Brat of Virginia. And he was on our air yesterday. And he was sending a message to your more moderate group. He said Republicans represent the Republican platform. You made promises to a platform. You didn't agree to work on the Democrats' platform. What would you tell him?

COFFMAN: Oh, I don't think - I think this is an American platform. And I do think there's a lot of Republicans in this country - they may not be some of the loudest, most ideological voices within the Republican Party, but there a lot of Republicans - and certainly polling data supports this - that are sympathetic to these young people, that see their plight as different as the adults who knowingly broke immigration law.

GREENE: Let's just think about where you are. You have a president who has signaled a harder line on immigration. You have a leadership that didn't even want to bring an immigration vote to the floor. You have members of Congress like Dave Brat who are accusing you, essentially, of working on a Democratic platform. And you have you saying that you represent a lot of Republicans who want, you know, a more accepting form of immigration policy. Is your party paralyzed on this?

COFFMAN: No, not really. And let me tell you that the president's, I think, tone has certainly changed on this particular issue when it comes to - he campaigned against this program. He said he was going to repeal this program from Day 1. He really did not. And I think he's sympathetic to these young people. He does not want the visual of deporting these young people.

GREENE: Mike Coffman is a Republican member of Congress from the state of Colorado.

Congressman, we appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

COFFMAN: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.