Republican Mike Coffman ‘will absolutely sign’ petition to force House vote on DREAM Act, spokesman says

Author: Ernest Luning - September 9, 2017 - Updated: September 11, 2017

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., speaks to the crowd at a GOP election night gathering in Denver in this file photo. (AP Photo/Chris Schneider)Rep. Mike Coffman, R-CO6., speaks to the crowd at a GOP election night gathering in Denver in this file photo. (AP Photo/Chris Schneider)

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman will sign a petition to force a House vote on legislation that offers a path to citizenship for immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, a spokesman for the Aurora Republican told Colorado Politics.

The five-term incumbent has been under attack from Democrats for what Coffman spokesman Kyle Kohli says are a series of procedural maneuvers his critics either don’t understand or have been intentionally mischaracterizing.

“As Mike made clear yesterday, he will absolutely sign onto any discharge petition for legislation he has previously cosponsored to protect Dreamers,” Kohli said Saturday.

Coffman is a sponsor or co-sponsor of the four major House bills that would grant legal status for so-called Dreamers — undocumented immigrants who arrived as children and meet other conditions — including the DREAM Act, the most expansive of the bills because it establishes multiple avenues to green cards and, eventually, citizenship.

Coffman initiated what’s known as a discharge petition Tuesday for a similar bill — the BRIDGE Act — that would shield certain immigrants from deportation, although only for a period of three years, after President Trump announced plans to rescind the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

It takes 218 signatures on the petition, a move usually attempted by members of the minority party, to force a vote on a bill.

“I see the discharge petition as a way to bring legislation to the floor should Republican leadership fail to allow a floor vote on a bill to protect these young people,” Coffman said in a statement.

After receiving assurances from House Speaker Paul Ryan the next day that lawmakers would consider more sweeping legislation to extend permanent protection for DACA recipients in conjunction with funding for border security, however,  Coffman said he would put a hold on gathering signatures for the BRIDGE Act. [See correction below]

That’s when Democrats pounced, accusing Coffman of abandoning his pledge to stand up for immigrants.

“The shifting story around his so-called ‘BRIDGE Act’ reflects an unfortunate and all-too-familiar pattern with Congressman Mike Coffman — lots of words with little action, all in service of his own reelection,” charged Jason Crow, one of three Democrats challenging Coffman in a primary. “After spending his career fighting against DACA, Coffman’s fear of losing his seat lead him to give hollow lip service to trying to help DREAMers.”

A spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee lobbed a similar attack.

“Two days. That’s how long it took Mike Coffman to cave to Speaker Paul Ryan and abandon DREAMers,” said Javier Gamboa, who describes himself as “a proud DREAMer.”

“Now that Rep. Coffman scored the political points, he’s fallen back in line with Republican leadership hell-bent on blocking immigration reform. This heartless gimmick from Rep. Coffman proves he’s only concerned with his own political future, not fighting for the 800,000 DACA recipients worried facing deportation under President Trump and House Republicans,” Gamboa continued.

Nonsense, the Coffman camp contended, arguing that extracting a promise from Ryan to bring a permanent solution — potentially the DREAM Act — to a vote meant there was no reason to continue chasing after the BRIDGE Act, a temporary measure.

And if House GOP leadership doesn’t follow through, Coffman has repeatedly insisted, there’s always a discharge petition. House Democrats are using an even more obscure procedural maneuver to force a vote on the DREAM Act, even though the legislation hasn’t been introduced for 30 legislative days, Roll Call reported Friday, and Kohl said Coffman will be happy to sign it if it’s required to bring the legislation to a vote.

“Mike has demonstrated for years now that his commitment to protect Dreamers is ironclad,” Kohli said. “The Democrats and some other observers want to split hairs and distort the truth because of evolving procedural tactics, as if anyone cares which procedure Congress ultimately uses to protect these young people. The smear merchants at the DCCC can pound sand, because we wouldn’t even be talking about these extraordinary tactics if Mike wasn’t forcing the issue in Congress. Mike is focused on protecting Dreamers — period. All the rest is the usual Washington noise.”

CORRECTION: Rep. Coffman said he put a hold on gathering signatures for the BRIDGE Act after receiving assurances from House Speaker Paul Ryan that lawmakers would consider more sweeping legislation to extend permanent protection for DACA recipients in conjunction with funding for border security — not, as an earlier version of this story said, after receiving assurances from Ryan that lawmakers would consider the DREAM Act.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.