Dems rip leaders' deal with Trump for ignoring DACA
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Frustrated House Democrats are pushing back Wednesday after party leaders cut a fiscal deal with President Trump that doesn’t include help for the so-called “Dreamers.”

The Democratic critics had urged leaders to use their leverage in this month’s fiscal fights to provide protection for those benefiting under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an Obama-era initiative that Trump announced he was halting on Tuesday.

Instead, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerElection Countdown: GOP worries House majority endangered by top of ticket | Dems make history in Tuesday's primaries | Parties fight for Puerto Rican vote in Florida | GOP lawmakers plan 'Freedom Tour' Senate Democrats should stop playing politics on Kavanaugh Montana GOP Senate hopeful touts Trump's support in new ad MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) forged a deal with Trump Wednesday afternoon that provides emergency aid to victims of Hurricane Harvey and extends government funding and borrowing powers, both through Dec. 15, but appears to kick the DACA debate until the end of the year. 

The deal was not welcome by immigration reform advocates on and off of Capitol Hill, who say the Democrats are sacrificing an opportunity to tap the backlash against Trump’s DACA decision to prop up the now-defunct program. 

“I think the urgency is now,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), head of the Progressive Caucus. “There’s still a feeling amongst us … that the moment to try to do something is right now — try to force hands. … Because I really think the momentum, at least the public attention to it, is so high, I don’t know if you can sustain it all the way until December.”


Rep. Luis GutierrezLuis Vicente GutierrezTrump ignores practical solution for stopping illegal immigration Illinois officer resigns after not helping woman harassed for wearing Puerto Rico shirt Dem tears into Kelly over immigrant comments: 'He eats the vegetables that they pick' MORE (D-Ill.), Congress’s most vocal immigration reform advocate, gave a much harsher critique, questioning the Democrats’ commitment to protecting the DACA program, which has granted temporary work permits to roughly 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. 

Gutierrez delivered an impassioned defense of the program during the Democrats’ weekly caucus meeting Wednesday morning. He was seething that his pleas to move  on the issue immediately went ignored.

“Democrats just don’t seem to want to use their leverage to protect the Dreamers. … That’s what the immigrant community is seeing through their lenses,” Gutierrez said.

“Please tell me the difference between a Republican Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump revokes Brennan's security clearance The Hill's 12:30 Report Poll: Republicans favor Scalise for Speaker; Dems favor Pelosi MORE [saying], ‘I feel so sorry, I’m so sympathetic to their cause,’ and a Democrat saying, ‘I’m so sorry, I feel so sympathetic to their cause’ — when neither one of them does anything to resolve the problem,” Gutierrez said. “I’m asking you who’s throwing the life-vest? Who’s expending some political capital? Who’s writing the check so they can be free?


The deal cut between Trump and the congressional leaders would benefit the Democrats in a political sense, by forcing Republicans to vote twice this year to raise the debt ceiling — a move that’s highly unpopular among Congress’s conservative deficit hawks. GOP leaders had urged an 18-month extension that would have kicked the issue beyond the 2018 mid-term elections, saving vulnerable incumbents from a difficult vote in December. But Trump sided with the Democrats’ three-month extension instead.

"We essentially came to a deal, and I think the deal will be very good," Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One after the meeting, as he was en route to North Dakota. 

Yet leverage-wise, it’s unclear what the Democrats will gain by pushing the DACA debate to the future. The Republicans will need their votes to pass the debt-ceiling and government spending bills in December, but those same dynamics also exist this month, leaving some Democrats scratching their heads about the delay.

“Other than the pressure of the holidays, that logic escapes me,” said Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump optimistic about GOP’s midterm prospects as Republicans fret Overnight Energy: New EPA chief faces test before Congress | Trump officials tout progress on air quality | Dem bill would force watchdog to keep investigating Pruitt Hillicon Valley: Senators working on new Russia sanctions bill | Defense bill includes cyber warfare policy | Hatch tells Google he's still alive | Dem wants tech execs back before Congress | Facebook gets foothold in China MORE (D-Va.). “I don’t mean that even inferentially critical. … But the logic of, ‘Well let’s put this off until December,’ has always escaped me. Is it going to be better in December?”

A Democratic aide defended the strategy, saying it would provide the emergency Harvey relief and prevent a costly government default, “while allowing Democrats to push their priorities in the upcoming negotiations, particularly the DREAM Act.”

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) said a DACA fix should be included among the list of must-pass bills, right alongside the debt ceiling and government funding bills. 

“There are some Democrats who feel that this is something we must do, also. And I agree with them,” he said. “Right now the iron’s hot, so we need to strike now, not wait two months and then decide that, ‘Oh, we have to do this, too’ — as an afterthought.”

Just hours before the Democrats announced their deal with Trump, Rep. Michele Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, echoed Pascrell’s impatience, saying there’s “a growing movement” among Democrats to push for the DACA language this month.

“We’re not waiting three months,” she said. “We know what’s at risk, and we hope our Republicans colleagues do, too.”

Gutierrez warned that the delay not only risks alienating Hispanics, it also has practical effects for the hundreds of thousands of DACA enrollees. 

“These 800,000 young people, you have upended their lives. I cannot think of the fear and the terror and the desperation that some of them are confronting. And they need to feel that they’re not alone,” he said.  

“The Democratic Party has to stand for something. And today it lost an opportunity to stand with them.”