Four bills came up in the Senate today and all four went down — but none harder than Chuck Grassley’s bill, which reflected Trump’s own terms for a deal. Trump’s offering Democrats amnesty for 1.8 million DREAMers in exchange for funding the wall, scaling back chain migration, and ending the diversity visa lottery.
Not even 40 votes.
Fourteen Republicans(!) voted no on the Trump plan: Barrasso, Collins, Daines, Enzi, Flake, Inhofe, Kennedy, Lee, Moran, Murkowski, Paul, Sasse, Thune, annnnd … Ted Cruz, who opposes any sort of amnesty for DREAMers either because he’s thinking of 2024 already or because he’s worried about his right flank for whatever strange reason in his reelection bid in Texas this year. The bill with the best chance of passing, the Rounds-King compromise, would have given Trump $25 billion for the wall, but only over the course of 10 years. It would have limited chain migration for DREAMers but not for other illegals. It would have left the diversity visa lottery intact and, bizarrely, it would have set a priority for DHS in which only criminals and national security threats would be deported if they entered the country before June 30th of this year. What do you suppose would happen at the border if that bill passed and word got out abroad that foreigners had a four-month free shot at entering the U.S.? There’s a reason Tom Cotton called Rounds-King the “olly olly oxen free amendment.”
So here we are, with the Republican caucus unable to muster even 50 votes for the most hawkish option on the menu, with the country bearing down on a March 5 deadline set by Trump for the end of the DACA program. POTUS has tweeted about that deadline lately as a threat to Schumer and Pelosi to make a deal now before he starts shipping out DACA enrollees. But that deadline is one he’s imposed on himself more so than on them, really. It would be one thing if DACA enrollees and immigration activists were pleading with Democratic leaders to take Trump’s deal before they’re deported, but they’re not. If anything, amnesty shills are the ones urging them to walk away lest the sacred goal of chain migration be sacrificed. The entire left, I think, believes that Trump will cave if we reach March 5 without a deal by refusing to deport DACA enrollees and extending the deadline further, however much that may anger his own base. They’re probably right. Lefty Bill Scher made the case to Democrats a few days ago that, despite Trump’s threats, the clock isn’t really ticking on DACA:
[I]f you clear away the bluster, all indications are that Trump and the Republicans are terrified, absolutely terrified, of having their fingerprints on the deportation of hundreds of thousands of sympathetic young people who grew up in this country and see themselves as Americans.
Cornyn, who this week heatedly delivered the Thursday ultimatum, was much more Zen back in December, when he said if Congress couldn’t pass a bill by March 5, “then the president could extend the deadline if he chose to do so.” (In fact, Cornyn had a different message one hour before his ultimatum, when he said, “We could do it this week if there is cooperation. If there is not, it might take longer.”) If Trump did not push back the deadline, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has insisted DREAMers would not be priorities for deportation, though they would lack work permits and would still be vulnerable to deportation.
Trump couldn’t end the program right now if he wanted to, as a federal court has ruled that DACA must continue while legal challenges to his decision to end the program play out. Even if worse came to worst for DACA enrollees, with the Supreme Court siding with Trump and Trump ending the program, Democrats are taking a calculated gamble that anger at the failure of Congress to find a solution will fall mainly on Republicans, not on them. Republicans control the government; a Republican president ended Obama’s program; and a Republican DHS will have undertaken to deport the DACA class. Ahem:
I have heard from a lot of House sources today that nobody is really taking the Trump-imposed March 5 deadline seriously anymore. Especially with the Senate failing to act, there's no urgency. https://t.co/UHS94pMngu
— Elaina Plott (@elainaplott) February 15, 2018
If Schumer’s lucky, the result of the DACA standoff will fire up his base for the midterms *and* Trump will eventually end up caving, leaving DACA enrollees eligible to stay in the U.S. while their status remains in limbo in the legislature. You would think Senate Republicans might have swung around behind Trump’s legislation today if only to deny Schumer the inevitable talking point that the president’s plan crashed and burned with strong bipartisan opposition, but oh well.
Exit question: Anyone want to guess which mysterious unnamed White House advisor was dumping all over Grahamnesty in a call with reporters today?
“He has been an obstacle to immigration reform. He has been an obstacle in the way of getting relief for Dreamers,” the official said of Graham…
Graham said that “as long as Stephen Miller is running the White House and Tom Tancredo’s press secretary at DHS” the immigration debate won’t be resolved.
The White House official fired back, pointing to the failure of past attempts to overhaul the immigration system.
“At some point you have to ask yourself the question if Lindsey Graham’s role in drafting those bills means that instead of being the solution to the problem, Lindsey Graham’s presence on those bills is the problem,” the official said.