Whole lotta morphing going on: Dems abandon "Dreamers" in budget talks? Update: Kelly to Capitol Hill

Better not let La Résistance find out about this. A week ago, Senate Democrats argued that the so-called “Dreamers” were more important than sick children and the armed forces. Now, according to Politico, they’re no longer part of spending talks at all. Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin made their cave complete, splitting the DACA negotiations away from the resolution of the FY2018 budget plan:

Senate Democrats are willing to drop their demand that relief for Dreamers be tied to any long-term budget agreement — a potential boost for spending talks, but one that could face opposition from their House counterparts.

The shift comes in response to the deal struck between Senate leaders Monday to reopen the government and begin debate on an immigration bill next month. Meanwhile, budget negotiators are expressing optimism that a two-year agreement to lift stiff caps on defense and domestic spending is increasingly within reach.

“We’re viewing [immigration and spending] on separate terms because they are on separate paths,” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Tuesday.

That was true all along, but Schumer and Durbin shut down the federal government anyway. Donald Trump refused to negotiate while the shutdown was in process using essentially the same argument — that DACA didn’t have anything to do with budget talks and that he wasn’t going to let Democrats take the federal government hostage. Not only did Schumer and Durbin surrender on Monday on that score, now they’ve given up the whole fight.

Ruben Navarette blasted Schumer and Senate Democrats for their cowardice and ineptitude, arguing that Democrats only stand for their own interests. And that was before Politico reported that Schumer and Durbin took DACA off the table:

One minute, he’s vowing to protect recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals from being deported when the program expires in March by giving them legal status.

The next minute, he is trying to seem reasonable to mainstream voters by telling reporters he agreed to the funding that Trump asked for to build his “big beautiful wall” on the U.S.-Mexico border; while the senator wouldn’t reveal the actual figure, two Republican senators said Trump and Schumer considered a $25 billion package.

The minute after that, Schumer gives in and walks away with nothing — except a promise by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that the Senate will address DACA down the line.

A promise, eh? Former President Obama promised to prioritize comprehensive immigration reform. How did that turn out?

And then, after Schumer was hammered by progressives and immigrant rights groups for folding under pressure, he makes an abrupt U-turn and insists the funding for the wall is off the table. He might have just sunk the chances for DACA relief.

Or did he? Mitch McConnell is kinda-sorta gloating over the win, but not exactly spiking the ball yet:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s “procedural concession means we’ve got a deadline and a process,” Durbin added. “That to me is a significant step forward. It’s not everything I wanted, that’s for sure, but it’s a step forward.”

Why the reticence? At the same time that Schumer and Durbin dropped the issue from budget talks, Donald Trump appeared to move in their direction.  In an impromptu press conference yesterday, Trump told reporters that he sees a path opening up for DACA recipients to “morph” into citizenship after 10-12 years of legalization:

Trump also said Wednesday that he’s open to an immigration plan that would provide a pathway to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of young people who were brought to the country as children and are now here illegally.

“We’re going to morph into it,” Trump told reporters. “It’s going to happen, at some point in the future, over a period of 10 to 12 years.”

Say what? The White House almost broke an ankle in their attempt to walk back that statement as fast as possible:

But immediately after Trump spoke, a senior White House official cast doubt on Trump’s assurances, telling The Associated Press a pathway to citizenship for so-called Dreamers was “maybe” an option.

“That’s a discussion point,” said the official, who added that Dreamers could immediately be given “legal status, as long as they behave themselves.”

It’s not a discussion point as much as it is a Schumer talking point. Border hawks erupted in anger; Breitbart’s front-page headline called Trump “Amnesty Don” for suggesting a path to citizenship. So what’s going on? Is this a Freaky Friday situation where Trump and Schumer have swapped bodies? Will Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan (or Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris for the over-50 set) suddenly appear on Capitol Hill?

Er, let’s hope not. What seems most likely is that Democrats took it off the table for the next round of budget talks because a deal’s already been made … and it’s not going to be one they’ll want to brag about. They’ll get DACA and a path to citizenship, but they may have to give up chain migration and a much bigger chunk of spending for the border wall in appropriated funds than they offered earlier. That’s a solution that has been so obvious for months that only elected officials could have missed it.

Even with a win, though, don’t expect Navarette and activists to forget how Democrats dumped them at the first opportunity. They’re just trying to get out of the debacle as quickly as possible.

Update: This nugget from Roll Call’s John Bennett fits that scenario:

Kelly is expected to head to Capitol Hill on Thursday to brief lawmakers on a White House overhaul framework due out on Monday, according to a senior administration official.

A couple hours before Trump departed for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, he interrupted a Wednesday evening session between Kelly and reporters and told his chief of staff he wants an immigration deal before he returns from a Switzerland.

Kelly was supposed to travel with Trump to Davos. If he’s sticking around, it’s not for spitballing.