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WASHINGTON -- Divided House Republicans left a bargaining session Tuesday night saying they hadn't reached an immigration compromise. Later, a top Republican aide said the chamber would vote on two immigration bills next week.

A meeting led by Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., had ended with participants saying no agreement had been reached. Several expressed optimism that an accord was near.

"We're still working to finalize what will move forward," said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. "We're close, we're very close."

"This has been a lot of members trying to creatively work through differences to get to an agreement. We're going to keep working at it because we're not there yet," said House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., the No. 3 Republican.

AshLee Strong, a spokesman for Ryan, said the votes will head off a petition moderates have been pushing that could force votes on other immigration bills that they prefer.

Republicans said one of the bills will be a strongly conservative measure without a way for young illegal immigrants to become citizens. The other will offer citizenship for them, like moderates want, plus strong border security language that conservatives want.

Strong said Republicans will discuss the plan at a closed meeting today.

[U.S. immigration: Data visualization of selected immigration statistics, U.S. border map]

For weeks, the two factions have hunted ways to provide a route to citizenship for young people who were brought as children to the U.S. and are here illegally, and to bolster border security. But the factions have failed to find middle ground.

Moderates led by Reps. Carlos Curbelo of Florida and California's Jeff Denham have said that without an agreement, they would on Tuesday get the 218 signatures -- a House majority -- needed on a petition that would trigger votes later this month on four immigration bills.

Scalise had warned earlier in the day that the petition could mean passage of the Dream Act, which would grant permanent legal status to those young people, who are often called "Dreamers." He said the bill "threatens national security" because it would not include accompanying enforcement measures that President Donald Trump and GOP lawmakers are demanding.

House GOP leaders have tried to derail that rarely used process, asserting that those votes would probably produce a liberal-leaning bill backed by Democrats and just a smattering of Republicans.

They've been trying to craft a right-leaning measure, but the party has long flailed to find compromise between centrists with Hispanic and moderate-minded constituents and conservatives whose voters back Trump's hard-line views.

Trump last year terminated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, though federal court orders have kept the program functioning for now.

In recent days, talks have focused on proposals that give the Dreamers a way to gain legal status, perhaps making them eligible for visas now distributed under existing programs.

Trump has proposed limiting the relatives that immigrants can bring to the U.S. and ending a lottery that provides visas to people from countries with low immigration rates, which could free up some visas.

Besides trying to cut a deal on a bill, Ryan and other GOP leaders have been trying to persuade moderate Republicans to not sign the petition.

Scalise on Tuesday said the talks have been "making a lot of headway," and he was "very hopeful" the discharge petition would not be completed Tuesday evening: "We're not there yet, but I think we're moving a lot closer."

He pointed to the apparent decision by one lawmaker, Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., to step back from his threats to sign the petition. Scalise said he and other members of the Republican leadership had urged Ross not to sign.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who has helped lead the discharge effort on the Democratic side, said Tuesday morning that he was "hopeful" the petition would be completed Tuesday night.

"Speaker Ryan promised months ago to address this issue," Hoyer said. "There is no text that reflects an agreement by the Republicans as to where they want to go."

Information for this article was contributed by Alan Fram, Lisa Mascaro and Matthew Daly of The Associated Press; and by Mike DeBonis of The Washington Post.

A Section on 06/13/2018

Print Headline: House GOP aide says votes planned on immigration bills

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