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How the GOP can save the Dreamers

Would renegade Republicans use a discharge petition to save the “Dreamers” legislation, as one House Republican in a tough district is promising?

I don’t know whether enough House Republicans favor protection for people who came to the U.S. illegally as minors. If all 194 Democrats supported the effort, it would take 24 Republican willing to sign their names. But suppose that many or more support the bill, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Even so, it could be that House Speaker Paul Ryan will put intense pressure against Republicans who are tempted to sign the petition. If that doesn’t work, Ryan could still try to substitute a watered-down measure to keep control of the House agenda for himself and his party while allowing those who want to cast a symbolic vote for DACA to do so.

Or at least, that’s what speakers have typically done. Ryan, however, has a pattern of protecting himself at the expense of his party. So while I am not making any predictions, I could imagine Ryan just allowing a discharge petition to succeed.

Ryan could then tell anti-immigration hardliners that he had done everything possible to stop it, and that it wasn’t his fault the thing reached the floor and passed despite his opposition. And, having passed the House, the measure would then put pressure on Mitch McConnell and other Republican Senators to move it further.

Would Ryan really sacrifice the influence of the speaker and the party caucus just to avoid any blame for a DACA bill passing? We can’t know yet, but it sure would fit the pattern that he established on health care.

Jonathan Bernstein is a columnist for Bloomberg View.