Do they? The White House position before today has been that Democrats should take Donald Trump’s latest offer on DACA as it’s as good a deal as they’ll get. This morning, Trump characterized it more as a jumping-off point:
Costs on non-military lines will never come down if we do not elect more Republicans in the 2018 Election, and beyond. This Bill is a BIG VICTORY for our Military, but much waste in order to get Dem votes. Fortunately, DACA not included in this Bill, negotiations to start now!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 9, 2018
So what are the parameters of this negotiation? Trump has made that pretty clear on Twitter this week, too:
Any deal on DACA that does not include STRONG border security and the desperately needed WALL is a total waste of time. March 5th is rapidly approaching and the Dems seem not to care about DACA. Make a deal!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 5, 2018
Polling shows nearly 7 in 10 Americans support an immigration reform package that includes DACA, fully secures the border, ends chain migration & cancels the visa lottery. If D’s oppose this deal, they aren’t serious about DACA-they just want open borders. https://t.co/XDMcDOr9vM
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 6, 2018
Unless Trump’s willing to demonstrate flexibility on these priorities in his earlier proposal, it doesn’t sound like he’s envisioning much of a negotiation. And that’s because the negotiations on this have been underway for months. Trump’s proposal is a legitimate attempt at compromise, with some elements (citizenship eligibility for DACA recipients) highly controversial among his own supporters. So far, at least, Democrats have shown little flexibility in return, especially on funding for the border wall — although some Democratic back-benchers have openly suggested that they’d pay the money to get DACA resolved.
The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe tells CBS News that the budget deal will give Democrats leverage to relink DACA to the appropriations bills that must get passed over the next few weeks. There’s only one problem with that — the timing:
.@edatpost: The fact that you have that March 23rd deadline now for this next big spending bill means that the issue of immigration may get merged back with all the spending issues, making that March 23rd deadline one of the biggest we've seen in years. https://t.co/nWniPGfSGc pic.twitter.com/fIRmfrWQZM
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 9, 2018
That might have been true, except that the deadline on DACA is March 5th, not March 23rd. Without a deal in place at that time, DACA recipients will become eligible for deportation. If that happens, it won’t be Trump who gets the blame for it — it will be Democratic leadership that unlinked DACA from the budget process who’ll take the heat. Democrats want Trump to extend the deadline, but with a deal so close, it would be foolish to do so and to give Democrats any opportunity take the budget process hostage again.
Besides, Democrats tried using a shutdown as leverage. It backfired badly on them, allowing Republicans to argue that Democrats cared more about illegal immigrants than they do about the health and welfare of American citizens and legal residents, as well as the military. Joe Manchin nearly quit in disgust, and may decide to quit if Schumer tries it again. Nancy Pelosi can pull all the stunts she wants in the House, but she can’t prevent passage of budgets on a simple majority; the Senate would have to block it, and Schumer’s been cheerleading the budget agreement with nary a word about DACA as a condition.
Democrats traded all their leverage in this fight for a ton of spending. That’s a win for them, but they’ve got nothing left on which to fight for a win on DACA. It’s going to get done on Trump’s terms, or it won’t get done at all — and the latter will be a disaster for them with progressive activists in a midterm cycle that suddenly looks a lot more precarious for Democrats. Get ready to build a wall.