NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 15:  Dozens of immigration advocates and supporters attend a rally outside of  Trump Tower along Fifth Avenue on August 15, 2017 in New York City. The activists were rallying on the five-year anniversary of President Obama's executive order, DACA - Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, protecting undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Security throughout the area is high with President Donald Trump in residency at the tower, his first visit back to his apartment since his inauguration. Numerous protests and extensive road closures are planned for the area.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Trump's twists and turns on DACA
02:30 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN  — 

A group of GOP moderates’ move to try force a DACA debate on the floor still has several hurdles to clear before they potentially reach any votes.

As of Thursday morning, 17 Republicans signed onto the petition. If all 193 Democrats join them, which is a possibility but not a given, they would still need eight more Republicans in order to hit 218 – a majority of the House.

One of the major driving forces of the effort, California Republican Rep. Jeff Denham, told CNN’s Ashley Killough Wednesday that he is confident in the effort and has asked Democrats to hold off on signing for now to avoid it looking like a Democratic bill.

House Speaker Paul Ryan remained skeptical about the effort on Thursday, saying at a weekly news conference that he doesn’t want to see a process that turns “the floor over to the minority” or “ends up with a veto.”

The key questions:

Can it get enough votes?

It’s quite possible. There are a number of moderates who want to see action on this and conservatives could be wooed as a way to bring the hardline bill from Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, and others to the floor, which GOP leadership has been sitting on because it lacks the votes.

One source told CNN their sense is leadership is concerned this petition could very well succeed.

Then what?

According to the authors of this effort, a discharged bill can be considered on the second and fourth Mondays that the House is in session, and signatures must be completed seven legislative days in advance. Based on the calendar, the earliest this could likely come together appears to be June.

Ryan could also opt to call it for floor time on his own.

Then is it clear sailing from there?

Of course not — this is Congress. When CNN asked Denham about a hypothetical where the leadership cancels all Monday votes until the election, for example, he responded he hoped the media and the American public would have something to say in response.

Which is to say, there are always procedural tricks that can be played. But they will be played in full view. And the rule that Denham wrote for consideration of the bill is fairly detailed.

So what happens if it makes the floor?

The discharge petition covers Denham’s proposed rule, which would provide for debate and votes on four different DACA bills. One would be a bipartisan compromise crafted by Reps. Will Hurd, R-Texas, and Pete Aguilar, D-California, (offered by Denham, per the rule), one would be the conservative Goodlatte bill, one would be the Dream Act (offered by Democratic Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard) and one is completely up to Ryan – leaving him free to choose any bill.

The rule doesn’t allow for an open floor amendment process, but the sponsors are able to amend their own bills, and the lawmakers said they fully expect all the bills to go through some changes before a vote, including appropriations language that could add the billions in border security likely necessary to pass a bill.

And of course, even if a bill were to pass the House, it’s unclear what would happen in the Senate or if the President would sign it.

What’s the immediate next step?

We wait and see how many lawmakers sign on. If and when they hit 218, all eyes will be on Ryan (and the leadership that includes two speakers-in-waiting) for what they do next and if they try to squelch the effort.

At his news conference on Thursday, Ryan reiterated that his objective remains passing bills that can become law – as in pass the Senate and get the President’s signature.

“I want to fix this problem, so I would like to have an immigration vote before the midterms, but I want to have a vote on something that can make it into law,” Ryan said. “I don’t want to have a vote on show ponies.”

I asked the lawmakers if they expect leadership to whip against them. They said they fully expect that and are ready.

“I think that’s the nature of the speakership,” Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo said. “I’m sure they will not be supporting this process, but I think ultimately it will empower them if we’re successful and it will help all of us meet the President’s challenge (to resolve the issue). … It’s the House’s turn to act. Enough waiting around.”

CNN’s Ashley Killough contributed to this report.