Could this be the deal that breaks the logjam — or is it a bluff that intends to break Nancy Pelosi’s public support? In his 3 pm ET address today, Axios reports that Donald Trump will offer to extend both the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as well as temporary protected status (TPS) for his $5.7 billion funding for a border wall. Such an offer could reset the political ground, and might have some moderate Democrats in favor of grabbing what they can to end the shutdown:
The offer is expected to include Trump’s $5.7 billion demand for wall money in exchange for the BRIDGE Act — which would extend protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — and also legislation to extend the legal status of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, according to a source with direct knowledge.
CNN’s Jeremy Diamond confirmed the story a little later in the morning. Jonathan Swan reports that Mike Pence has been working Capitol Hill to get some kind of swap that will allow both sides to declare victory. Republicans aren’t the only ones working the aisles, however. Swan also notes that some Democrats have tried to work this from the other side by increasing border-security spending in their latest funding bill, intending to put pressure back on Trump to accept other security measures besides a wall:
House Democrats have added more than $1 billion in border-related spending to a package of funding bills that would reopen most of the government, even as President Trump said he would have a “major announcement” on Saturday about the border and the shutdown stalemate. …
The proposal to include more spending on border measures is scheduled for a vote next week, according to two senior Democratic officials. The plan reflects a shift in strategy by congressional Democrats, who have maintained that they would not give the president a counterproposal until he drops his insistence on a wall and signs legislation to reopen the government. It is an attempt to rebut Mr. Trump’s repeated portrayal of Democrats as opponents of border security and their denunciation of his wall as an embrace of open borders.
About half the money, $524 million, would be for additional infrastructure at ports of entry on the border, one Democrat said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the plans have not been formally announced, while $563 million more would be inserted to fund 75 immigration judges, who adjudicate the claims of migrants who make asylum claims at the border.
That’s clearly going to be insufficient, even for public-relations purposes. The pressing issue at the border isn’t the infrastructure at the ports of entry; it’s how many people avoid ports of entry by crossing elsewhere on the 1900-mile frontier. When we’ve solved the latter, or at least greatly mitigated it, we’ll see more people presenting themselves properly at ports of entry, and fewer resources will have to be used to prevent entries elsewhere. At that point we’ll need more infrastructure spending at ports of entry, but it’s a question of sequencing and priorities.
Will Trump’s offer be any more effective? Possibly, because DACA is important enough to Democrats that Chuck Schumer initiated a government shutdown almost exactly a year ago to rescue it. He took a beating over it from his own constituencies when he retreated on the shutdown. DACA advocates have been waiting a long time for Democrats to deliver a win for the program, and it will be tough to pass this up. Plus, Democrats have been advocating hard for TPS extensions since the Trump administration began to cut them off. They would get two wins — albeit temporary — in trade for a portion of the wall. It’s going to be tough to explain to the “dreamers” that Democrats thought it better to leave them at risk of deportation rather than build a wall that won’t bother them one bit.
That might be enough for Pelosi’s frosh class in the House. Most of them came from districts that had elected Republicans in the past, and some of them won by pledging not to support Pelosi and her hard-Left agenda. Winning extensions on DACA and TPS while ending a very unpopular shutdown might appeal a great deal to them as we approach its monthiversary. If she turns it down, Pelosi might face a palace revolt within weeks of her installation as Speaker. With enmity running as high as it is between Pelosi and Trump, though, it almost seems impossible that she will accept any funding for the wall, period.
It’s a bit curious that Trump’s coming out with the first significant shift off of opening positions. The Art of the Deal author would likely remind anyone under any other circumstances that the person who blinks first is the loser in a standoff. In this situation, though, that might be reversed, given the obstinacy on both sides that have characterized this shutdown. Until 3 pm ET today, this has been Trump’s shutdown because of his insistence on a wall without any tradeoffs to benefit Democrats politically. If he makes this offer, it might change the political dynamic just from the reasonableness of the proposal.
Bear in mind, however, that this deal was obvious from Day 1 of the shutdown, and since last year’s shutdown too. Neither side had any incentives to help the other side save a little face until now. In fact, the DACA/TPS-for-wall swap is the obvious permanent solution, too: $25 billion for the entire wall project in exchange for a statutory DACA program and new parameters for existing TPS refugees. Both sides keep selling their voters on triumphalism rather than compromise, which is why voters look for disruptors rather than effective governance.
And that’s why we’re heading toward Month Two of the shutdown, unless Pelosi decides that half a loaf is better than none. Or more to the point, unless Pelosi realizes that she’ll own the shutdown if she doesn’t take the deal.