Lankford: Trump will extend DACA, you know

Ed Morrissey Posted at 9:21 am on October 13, 2017

The Constitution giveth, the Constitution taketh away. At nearly the same time that Donald Trump reinforced Congressional authority over appropriations by ending illegal cost-sharing reduction subsidies to ObamaCare insurers, Sen. James Lankford reassured the Washington Post that he would continue another program outside constitutional bounds. If Congress can’t come up with a legislative fix for DACA by Trump’s deadline, he’ll simply extend it until they do:

President Trump will extend a March 5 deadline to end protections for young undocumented immigrants if Congress fails to act by then, according to a Republican senator who spoke directly with the president about the issue.

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said Trump told him he was willing to “give it some more time” to allow lawmakers to find a solution for “dreamers,” unauthorized immigrants brought to this country as children, if Congress does not pass legislation extending protections before time is up.

“The president’s comment to me was that, ‘We put a six-month deadline out there. Let’s work it out. If we can’t get it worked out in six months, we’ll give it some more time, but we’ve got to get this worked out legislatively,’ ” Lankford said outside a town hall here Thursday night.

Well, that’ll show Congress! It’s not much of a threat to pledge to continue a program if Congress fails to properly authorize it. However, this mainly lets Republicans off the hook. Why should they expose themselves to the ire of Trump’s populist base by creating a statutory form of DACA when the president can shoulder all of the political heat for continuing it? If Trump won’t cancel DACA outright, then they don’t even need to worry about the ire of the pro-DREAMer crowd, either. The status quo suits them just fine.

It complicates matters for Democrats more, though. They want more out of a deal than just deferred prosecution, as it still leaves those impacted at the whim of the executive (which is precisely why it was a bad idea from the beginning). They want to pass a full DREAM Act, or as much of it as they can get — and for a while, it seemed as though Trump would sign onto it. This past weekend, however, Trump issued a laundry list of tough immigration enforcement measures in exchange for a new DACA program, and Democrats balked.

Now it’s just a matter of who blinks first. Having raised expectations among their activist base, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer will need to deliver some sort of victory, and an extension of the status quo won’t do. Will the border wall be so objectionable as to block normalization for the DREAMers? Or will Trump come under enough pressure to end the extra-constitutional program from his populist base that he forces the issue and puts Republicans back on the hot seat? So far, it’s Trump who’s been doing most of the blinking with Pelosi and Schumer, but in this case he really has no reason to change the status quo, except of course for enforcing the Constitution and Congress’ authority to create statutes for the executive to enforce. You know, that old thing.