Trump: Won't sign 'moderate' immigration bill in GOP setback

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump ignited eleventh-hour confusion today over Republican efforts to push immigration through the House next week, saying he won't sign a "moderate" package.

A top House Republican said the chamber would not tackle the issue without Trump's backing.

The tumult erupted days before GOP leaders planned campaign-season votes on a pair of Republican bills: a hard-right proposal and a middle-ground plan negotiated by the party's conservative and moderate wings.

Despite their policy clashes, both factions have been eager for the votes to be held as a way to show voters where they stand approaching an election in which GOP House control is at stake.

"I'm looking at both of them," Trump told reporters at the White House. "I certainly wouldn't sign the more moderate one."

The compromise bill includes provisions easing the high-profile problem of children being separated from parents when the families are caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally. It would mandate that families be kept together for as long as they are in the custody of the Homeland Security Department, whose agencies staff border facilities and enforce immigration laws.

Spotlighting the political sensitivity of the issue, congressional Republicans have distanced themselves from the Trump administration's policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border. The White House has cited the Bible in defending its "zero-tolerance" approach to illegal border crossings.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has said Trump backs the compromise plan. GOP aides said Trump's remark caught party leaders off-guard, and White House officials did not immediately respond to requests to clarify the president's comment.

While the conservative measure is seen as virtually certain to lose, party leaders have nurtured hopes that the compromise bill could pass. Trump's backing has been seen as crucial for passage, and his apparent pullback of support would be an embarrassing setback.

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