Color me skeptical on this claim, reported today at the Los Angeles Times in the wake of Chuck Schumer’s attempt to reset the DACA-immigration standoff. Schumer announced yesterday that he was pulling his agreement to fund the border wall after losing the shutdown stunt on Monday, no doubt hoping to be seen as playing hardball with Donald Trump immediately after getting outplayed by him. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) later said that there had already been some bipartisan compromise on the impasse, with Schumer supposedly agreeing to fund the entire border-wall project:
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer has pulled back an offer of $25 billion for President Donald Trump’s long-promised southern border wall, as lawmakers scrambled to figure out how to push a deal to protect 700,000 or more so-called Dreamer immigrants from deportation. …
Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said Schumer had promised $25 billion for the wall and other border security measures, though not all of that would have been immediate funding. He called Schumer’s withdrawal of the offer “a step backward.”
Say what? The “gang of six” proposal that got floated immediately before the shutdown only has a tenth of that spending for additional immigration enforcement and only a little over half of that ($1.6 billion) was allocated to border barrier security. Cornyn offers an important qualifier here, noting that it wouldn’t have been “immediate funding,” echoing what Mick Mulvaney said yesterday — that Schumer was offering an authorization rather than an appropriation. Authorizations are cheap, as Schumer proved by voting to authorize a border wall in 2006 and blocking the funding for it ever since.
But that’s still a figure that’s an order of magnitude beyond anything Democrats offered in the past, while a much more modest proposal was on the table with key Republicans backing it. Are we to believe that Schumer would have increased the offer by almost 2000% after just a few hours of the shutdown — with Graham’s much more palatable (for Schumer) bipartisan deal in play? That would have been a yuuuuuuuuge victory for Donald Trump and border hawks and would have given the White House enough leverage to steamroll Graham into demanding a much bigger FY2018 down payment than $1.6 billion on that border funding.
It seems a little too good to be true, but at least thus far Schumer’s not denying it. Why reveal it now? Perhaps Cornyn’s doing a little parameter-resetting of his own. Both Cornyn and Mulvany have stated that Schumer was pretty generous with “authorizations,” and they would want to get that full figure on the table at the start of negotiations. If that’s the offer Schumer made, then Senate Republicans and the White House want to make sure that Democrats and their interest groups know that’s the starting point for future negotiations.
And with that, it’s easy for the White House to claim as it did yesterday that the gang of six and its anemic border-wall funding is at the “go through its pockets and look for loose change” stage:
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday the immigration reform bill presented by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), and Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) would be “dead on arrival.”
Sanders said the bipartisan bill, which has also received support from Sen. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.), does not meet President Donald Trump’s benchmarks on border security or reforming the larger immigration system. The White House previously criticized the bill for providing little to improve border security and allowing chain migration and the visa lottery system to continue, and Sanders said she wanted to “leave no doubt” about Trump’s expectations.
“In a bipartisan meeting at the White House two weeks ago, we outlined a path forward on four issues: serious border security, an end to chain migration, the cancellation to the outdated and unsafe visa lottery, and a permanent solution to DACA,” Sanders said. “Unfortunately, the Flake-Graham-Durbin agreement does not meet these benchmarks.”
Sanders talks about benchmarks. The $25 billion figure just became one of those.