The stakes have been raised in the negotiations over a spending bill that will keep the government operating after January 19.
Speaker Paul Ryan says that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) legislation will not be on the table in budget talks after Donald Trump refused to accept a deal that would have included it.
We have to keep those separate because that’s just not good government, just lopping all this stuff together,” he said. “I think people are attaching them in their minds as far as leverage is concerned, but they won’t be technically attached as far as legislation is concerned.”
Bipartisan negotiations hit a snag after President Donald Trump on Thursday rejected an agreement reached by a group of six senators. And the President further complicated things Thursday when he made highly incendiary comments about immigrants from Haiti and countries in Africa, which have inflamed and brought criticism from many in Trump’s own party.
Ryan on Friday called the comments “unfortunate” and “unhelpful” but argued negotiations for a deal regarding the DACA program must continue, even if it’s not resolved by the January 19 spending deal deadline. “We just have to get it done,” he said.
The speaker said the spending legislation to keep the government open would be another short-term bill to give lawmakers more time to hash out final details. He said he’s confident they will reach a long-term spending agreement at some point, even if he can’t say when. “I think we’ll get a down payment on some of these problems and keep fighting, keep working to get the rest of it done.”
Ryan said he didn’t think there would be a government shutdown, adding that Republicans and Democrats are making progress on spending caps.
Whether there is funding for the government after January 19 is now the responsibility of Republicans. Ryan may be whistling past the graveyard when he says there will be no shutdown. There is very little margin for error in the House, as several conservatives are balking at the prospect of passing another short-term spending measure, and the Senate, where the GOP can afford to lose only two members, is worse.
But Ryan may be able to get something passed as long as he promises to deal with budget issues before the short-term funding expires, probably sometime in March. The spending caps are detrimental to the military, whose budget has been hamstrung for years by unrealistic limits.
As for immigration, Trump rejected the DACA deal because the approach by the bipartisan group of senators who negotiated it wasn’t comprehensive enough.
White House legislative director Marc Short told reporters on Capitol Hill after the meeting that the President wants a “broader” deal on the family piece than just the covered recipients.
“There is a reason why the President has said that is not acceptable to him and sent everybody back to the same drawing board that Kevin McCarthy drew up on Tuesday,” [Senator Tom] Cotton said after the meeting.
White House spokesperson Raj Shah did not deny Trump’s “shithole” remark, but instead emphasized in a statement the President “is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation.”
By separating DACA from funding negotiations, Trump has taken away the leverage Democrats thought they had when they said there would be no budget deal without DACA legislation. Now, it’s very possible that the Republicans will get a spending package done anyway, with no help from Democrats.
Treating DACA as part of a broader, stand-alone immigration package will also force Democrats to deal on the border security and immigration restrictions the president wants. That includes funding for a border wall that Democrats may have to swallow if they want to satisfy their base and get DACA done.