Has the White House decided to throw in the kitchen sink in an effort to get funding for the border wall? On Saturday, Donald Trump changed the dynamics of the debate by offering to leave the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program alone for three years in exchange for $5.7 billion to build the barrier system. The Washington Post reports that Jared Kushner went even further in a meeting yesterday with Latino activists, pledging that “permanency would receive full consideration”:
At the White House on Thursday, the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, met with several Latino leaders who lobbied for the president to sweeten his offer to Democrats by including permanent legal status, and possibly a path to citizenship, for young immigrants known as “dreamers.”
Kushner responded that “permanency would receive full consideration,” said Daniel Garza, the executive director of the Libre Initiative, a group funded by Charles and David Koch, prominent GOP fundraisers who support the dreamers.
Over the weekend, Trump had proposed a three-year extension of a deferred action program that has provided work permits to 700,000 dreamers. He has tried to cancel the program, and the temporary extension was part of the legislation that failed Thursday.
That would be quite the concession, but perhaps not functionally much different than what Trump proposed over the weekend. I pointed out in my column at The Week that a three-year extension for DACA could well become “permanent” if Trump didn’t win re-election. Even if he did win a second term, he’d only get that leverage back shortly before the midterms in 2022.
However, permanence would require a statutory version of DACA, especially to remove the threat of judicial intervention. That card was seen as the leverage for getting the entire $25 billion needed to build the wall as envisioned by Trump in the campaign. If Nancy Pelosi takes this deal, Trump will never get any leverage like this again, which means his border wall will stop well short of his campaign promise. That’s a lot to give up ahead of re-election.
Maybe Kushner’s offering it because he knows Pelosi won’t take it, though. Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer say, “We’re talking,” but it’s still Pelosi pulling the strings:
And though McConnell and Schumer are both known as pragmatic strategists, they’ve been constrained by forces beyond their control. There’s Trump, of course, who wants his border wall and dismissed an initial funding measure backed by McConnell and Schumer in December. And there’s Pelosi, who now outranks Schumer in the party and is leading a caucus filled with liberals who feel no need to compromise with Trump. …
“Mitch is negotiating with Chuck Schumer,” Trump said on Thursday afternoon. “If they come to a reasonable agreement, I would support it, yes.”
But then he added: “We have to have a wall.”
Whether Schumer, who has been in close consultation with Pelosi, will bend at all toward the president still seems doubtful. The two have been in lockstep for weeks, and Democrats say there’s zero chance Schumer would do anything the speaker doesn’t support. The only impediment is Trump, they say.
The sudden concessions might signal that Trump’s patience is running out. After putting a permanent DACA on the table, Trump could argue that further negotiation is fruitless. He could then declare the national emergency that he’s threatened in the past and redirect money from the Pentagon budget to build the wall — eventually, assuming the courts let him do it. At that point he’ll have at least tried the legislative path, Trump can claim, and paint Pelosi as the obstructionist.
That may well be the only path out of the “box canyon,” as Sen. Tim Scott called it:
“I never knew the definition of a box canyon,” Scott said. “But I can see one now.”
All that requires are two parties who keep selling their voters on the idea that they can have everything while giving up nothing. That’s how we get leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump. As long as voters keep buying those arguments, our governing institutions will remain in box canyons of dysfunction.