Suddenly everything’s coming up Trump!
…or it would be, if not for the fact that he’s up against a self-imposed deadline for Congress to solve the DREAMer problem for him by March, when DACA is headed for the dustbin. Some border hawks suspect that if Congress doesn’t reach a deal by then, Trump will turn around and pull a cave of his own by agreeing to extend DACA after vowing to end it. He was reluctant to end it in the first place, remember. The fact that Democrats are punting now increases the risk that he’ll eventually have to wimp out and ignore his own deadline.
But that’s something to worry about next year. The good news for the GOP right now is that Democrats won’t demand a DREAM bill as part of the package to fund the government this week. If they had, it would have put Republicans in the position of either rubber-stamping DREAM and pissing off (part of) their base or standing firm against it and potentially being blamed for the ensuing government shutdown. Instead Pelosi and Schumer will need to answer to angry amnesty shills demanding to know why Democrats aren’t using their leverage over a shutdown to make DREAM happen.
Democrats are backing away from a pledge to force a vote this month over the fate of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children, angering activists but likely averting the threat of a government shutdown at a critical moment in spending negotiations with Republicans and President Trump…
“I had [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi tell me to my face that she would get this done by the end of the year,” said Adrian Reyna, 26, an immigrant who arrived from Mexico at age 11 and whose work permit expires in May. Reyna is the membership director of United We Dream, the youth-led immigrant organization organizing protests.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Reyna said, “looked into the eyes of our members and said he’s committed to getting this done. They cannot just tell us they are going to do something and then just drop out.”
“We have to do it before Christmas. That’s just the way it is,” said Pelosi in October. A week ago, MoveOn.org’s Washington director warned Democrats, “If Congress goes home for Christmas and leaves Dreamers in the cold, there will be a grassroots uprising that will scorch every legislator who fails to do what’s right.” And now here we are.
It’s actually been clear for awhile that Pelosi and Schumer weren’t prepared to play hardball with the shutdown over DREAM, as Politico noticed recently that the two of them had stopped linking amnesty to government funding in their speeches. They have a good reason: Thanks to Doug Jones’s victory in Alabama, there’s now a small but real chance of Democrats taking back the Senate next year if everything breaks their way. To do that, though, they need all of their red-state incumbents like Jon Tester, Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly, and Claire McCaskill to win. A DREAM vote is a tough one for a politician from a Republican state under any circumstances; a DREAM vote tied to a potential shutdown is a nightmare. Tester et al. would be forced to choose between betraying their party and their liberal base by joining the GOP in opposing DREAM and angering their red-state constituents by sticking with their party and triggering a shutdown — over amnesty for young illegals, of all things. If the Testers and Manchins are going to bite the bullet on DREAM, they’ll want lots of cover from Republicans. That means a bipartisan deal, and a bipartisan deal ain’t happening if Democrats use the threat of a shutdown to essentially ransom illegals. So Pelosi and Schumer are going to swallow hard, postpone the DREAM negotiations for a few months to protect their incumbents, and hope that the amnesty brigades don’t go too berserk.
I wonder what sort of factor Trump was in their calculations. Yes, his job approval is poor, but he has a megaphone like few presidents before him ever had. If Democrats forced a shutdown over DREAM and Trump went nuclear on them publicly, how would the public react? Remember, the key electorate here isn’t the national electorate, it’s the electorates in the red states where Democrats have to defend Senate seats next fall. How would a presidential message about Joe Donnelly shutting off Hoosiers’ federal services because he’s hot for amnesty play in Indiana?
If the politics here were just a little different, arguably Democrats would be making a mistake. They know congressional Republicans are reluctant to sign off on amnesty, however much they may quietly support it. A party in that position might reasonably conclude that they have no choice but to use the shutdown as leverage to force a deal since the GOP won’t agree to it under any other circumstances. Trump, however, has made clear that he’s okay with some sort of deal legalizing DACA recipients; even Steve Bannon was reportedly sanguine about it when he was still Trump’s chief strategist. So hesitant is Trump to start booting DREAMers out of the country that he postponed canceling DACA for six months to see if Congress would come to his rescue. If you’re Schumer and Pelosi, there’s every reason to think he’ll hear them out on a deal next spring. At least until Bannon starts whispering in his ear that all of his primary challengers to McConnell’s incumbents are going to savage the GOP if Trump agrees.