“We don’t think there should be a farm bill vote until we deal with immigration,” Representative Jim Jordan, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, told Reuters, adding they had relayed the message to leadership.
The Freedom Caucus has about 30 members in the 435-seat House and they have been pushing for consideration of a conservative immigration bill. If caucus members oppose the farm bill, it could derail its chances in the Republican-controlled chamber, where Democrats oppose it for changes it would make to nutrition assistance programs.
The group of hard-right conservatives is using the farm bill as leverage for an immigration debate on the House floor in hopes of firming up support from their core voters in the run-up to the Nov. 6 congressional elections.
Asked by reporters why the Freedom Caucus was linking the farm and immigration initiatives, the group’s head, Representative Mark Meadows, said: “This (farm bill) is literally the last must-pass piece of legislation that we have between now and the spending bill that will come up in October.”
Freedom Caucus members have been pushing a bill that would reduce legal and illegal immigration to the United States while giving temporary protections to young immigrants known as “Dreamers,” who were brought to the United States illegally when they were children.
Many Republicans doubt that immigration bill has enough support to pass the House. Republican leaders have been looking to alternate approaches that could draw enough support.
Reporting by Richard Cowan, Susan Cornwell and Amanda Becker; Editing by Chris Reese and Peter Cooney