Republicans just blew up Democratic hopes for using DACA for leverage in shutdown talks. Both House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and White House Legislative Director Marc Short confirmed that there would be no DACA negotiations while the government remained without funding.
“I think it’s more difficult to get any agreement on DACA in a shutdown,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy heading into a meeting with GOP leaders Saturday. He was referring to the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, shielding hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children from deportation, known as Dreamers.
White House Legislative Director Marc Short, who attended a closed-door meeting of House Republicans, echoed that stance.
“I think the administration’s position is that as soon as they reopen the government, we’ll resume negotiations on DACA,” Short told reporters. “It’s hard to negotiate on that when they’re keeping our border agents unpaid, our troops unpaid, not paying for American services.”
Trump, who canceled a weekend trip to Florida to celebrate his first anniversary in office, spoke with Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Saturday morning, aides said.
House Republicans scoffed at a tentative framework to reopen the government being discussed by a bipartisan group of senators.
Under the proposal — conceived by GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake — Senate Democrats would agree to re-open the government and fund agencies until Feb. 8. In exchange, they would secure a vote on a bipartisan Dreamers bill. While McConnell signaled that he might go along, Senate Democrats also wanted a commitment from Ryan to include the bill in must-pass legislation in the House.
But McConnell would not agree to that demand, senators said, because he cannot bind the House to a Senate deal.
And Ryan insisted that the Senate needed to approve the House bill to fund the government until Feb. 16 as a starting point for any broader agreement.
“We were not party to any negotiations, and our only message to the Senate all day yesterday was pass our bill to keep the government open,” AshLee Strong, Ryan’s spokeswoman, said in a statement. “The government shut down because Senate Democrats decided to hold the entire federal government and children’s health insurance hostage. It’s pretty straight forward.”
The GOP is smart to deny Democrats leverage in the budget deal, but so far, both sides are not doing a very good job in the message war. The Democrats are barely mentioning DACA in their public attacks on Republicans. They are trying to blame Donald Trump, using the president’s shifting negotiating tactics on DACA to claim they can’t nail him down for a deal.
But recall that Trump never wanted DACA in budget legislation in the first place. Then, he demanded that money for the wall and other immigration enforcement measures be included along with DACA. Now, the president is going to give Democrats a DACA vote, but only after a short-term funding bill is approved.
The more Democrats push, the harder Trump is pushing back.
The Democrats are going to be the ones to blink in this fight. Trump is in no hurry to get the government up and running, and while Republicans might fret about the reaction of voters, they really have little to worry about. The Democrats will make a show for their base of fighting for DACA, but in the end, the president holds the whip hand and Democrats will abandon their quest.