Denham, a Republican from Turlock, said in an interview beforehand that he expects over a dozen House Republicans to sign Wednesday morning, and he's "extremely confident" that the rest of the GOP members he needs will follow closely behind.
Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart are trying to force votes on four immigration bills, bypassing Speaker Paul Ryan and House GOP leadership, which have been resistant to any immigration proposal that doesn't have 218 Republican votes.
The last time a discharge petition worked was 2002, when enough members of the Republican majority and Democratic minority bucked then Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) to successfully vote on and pass the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (commonly known as McCain-Feingold).
Mr. Curbelo said his goal is to bring all immigration measures to the floor for a debate and come to a resolution on the issue.
But thanks to a little-used procedure called a "discharge petition", a group of renegade Republicans could now circumvent his leadership and force floor votes on the issue.
The House clerk posts the growing list of legislators who have signed the petition. "So the speaker is actually empowered by this process", he said. The measures never received House votes.
The effort is being spearheaded by three moderate Republicans who have always been vocal about trying to save DACA, a program that protected young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children - Reps. Will Hurd, R-Texas, and Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., would offer a way for Dreamers to remain in the USA legally but not offer citizenship. I don't think it makes any sense to bring a bill through a process that would produce a bill that will get a presidential veto.
"We feel very importantly that this has got to happen now, and we' re willing to drive that vote", said Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.). "I just don't think that's in anyone's interest".
That could be a tall order, because lawmakers in the majority party are typically reluctant to undermine their leadership's ironclad control of the floor by supporting a discharge.
A conservative House bill would let DACA's "Dreamer" recipients stay in the US temporarily, but also reduce legal immigration, allow construction of Trump's proposed border wall with Mexico and crack down on "sanctuary cities" that don't cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
But Republican immigration moderates wary of being politically exposed if the House abandons the issue have continued pushing leaders for votes, and they seemed to have momentum in their favor Wednesday. They have been unable to do so because of conservatives who are reluctant to vote on any bill that provides a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who came to the US without authorization. The President has backed Goodlatte's legislation and rejected all the other proposals put forth besides his own hardline plan. The group wants to hold votes on four different immigration proposals, including a bill favored by conservatives and one of Ryan's choosing.
"This debate is too important not to have", said Hurd, who has roughly one-third of the entire southern border as part of his district, more than any other single member.