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GOP puts brakes on Trump's DACA deal with Democrats

GOP puts brakes on Trump's DACA deal with Democrats
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Republicans are scrambling to put the brakes on a deal between President Trump and Democrats that would pair protections for young undocumented immigrants with border security. 

Trump and congressional Democrats once again stunned Washington Wednesday night after they emerged from a White House dinner meeting saying they had agreed to work on a deal that would include a legislative fix for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The result left GOP lawmakers playing catch up and leadership quickly trying to reassert their control, noting that Congress has to pass any legislation. 

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“There is no agreement. The president and [his] chief of staff called me from Air Force One today to discuss what was discussed, and it was a discussion, not an agreement or a negotiation,” Ryan told reporters at his weekly news conference.

He added that GOP leadership is having conversations with rank-and-file members “while we negotiate a compromise.”

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers feel pressure on guns Bipartisan group of House lawmakers urge action on Export-Import Bank nominees Curbelo Dem rival lashes out over immigration failure MORE (R-Ky.) also offered a lukewarm response to the potential deal, saying lawmakers “look forward to receiving the Trump administration’s legislative proposal as we continue our work on these issues.”

“As Congress debates the best ways to address illegal immigration through strong border security and interior enforcement, DACA should be part of those discussions,” he added.

McConnell’s comments came after Trump called him to discuss DACA and border security.

Democrats leaders say they Trump agreed to the "framework" of a deal that would pair a legislative fix for immigrants brought into the country illegally as children with tougher border security. And Trump said they were “very close” to an agreement, adding later that it wouldn’t include “amnesty.”

The agreement, which Democrats say does not include border wall funding, has infuriated conservatives who were already reeling from the short-term deal to raise the debt ceiling. They argue Trump is going back on his campaign promises to build the wall and take a harder line on immigration. 

GOP Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) noted that he was still focused on his legislation with Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonGOP looks for Plan B after failure of immigration measures Senate rejects Trump immigration plan Our intelligence chiefs just want to tell the truth about national security MORE (R-Ark.), endorsed by Trump and conservative groups, that would curb legal immigration.

“There is a solution to DACA. I want to get a solution DACA, but ... we’re educating people about what the merit-based system does right now,” he told The Hill.

Asked about the agreement, he noted that he supports the president talking to any senator but “my understanding is there is no deal that’s being worked on. There was a conversation.”

Many members, while open to the broad contours of a potential deal on immigration, are sending early signals they will want to weigh in any agreement reached by the White House. 

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCongress punts fight over Dreamers to March Drama surrounding Shulkin — what is the future of VA health care? Blackburn pushes back on potential Corker bid: 'I'm going to win' MORE (R-Tenn.), who broadly backed tying a DACA fix to border security, predicted an agreement would have to go through congressional committees — a cooling saucer that could require months to work through.

“My guess is it will be more of a committee type process,” he told reporters. “Hopefully that comes over in a bullet-point form, or something like that, and then works through its normal process.” 

Forcing any immigration plan to go through so-called “regular order” — meaning it doesn’t go straight to the floor for a vote—would give lawmakers multiple chances to tweak and potentially water-down a deal worked out between Trump and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats now attack internet rules they once embraced Schumer: Trump budget would ‘cripple’ gun background checks Schumer: Senate Republicans' silence 'deafening' on guns, Russia MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynLawmakers feel pressure on guns Kasich’s campaign website tones down gun language after Florida shooting Murphy: Trump’s support for background check bill shows gun politics ‘shifting rapidly’ MORE (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, added that “as a practical matter” other members of Congress are going to want to have a say. 

“Schumer and Pelosi, of course, they didn’t have an agreement on the details, it was an agreement to agree … but even if they did have an agreement that’s not binding on anybody else,” he said. 

Republican senators were already gravitating, in broad strokes, to pairing stronger border enforcement to a legislative fix for undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children.

But with Wednesday night's dinner appearing to speed up the process, GOP lawmakers are pitching potential changes that they want added to any deal.

Cornyn noted that his border security bill, which would provide $15 billion to border security and immigration enforcement, could be part of the “discussion.”

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulDem wins Kentucky state House seat in district Trump won by 49 points GOP's tax reform bait-and-switch will widen inequality Pentagon budget euphoria could be short-lived MORE (R-Ky.) floated the possibility that administration could include a deal that loops in DACA kids with the roughly one million legal immigrants allowed into the country each year.

“If we count them to the total that we accept each year, that could be a compromise,” he told reporters. 

And Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordAfter Florida school shooting, vows for change but no clear path forward GOP senator: 'The problem is not owning an AR-15' Sunday shows preview: Russian charges, Florida shooting dominate coverage MORE (R-Okla.) said Thursday that he and Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisPrison sentencing bill advances over Sessions objections Kimmel writer tweets amount NRA has given lawmakers in response to shooting prayers Both sides of immigration fight unhappy with Senate debate MORE (R-N.C.) are working on a DACA-fix that would be an alternative to the DREAM Act — a bill similar to DACA that would have allowed people brought to the U.S. illegally as children to work and live freely in the country.

A potential agreement reached by lawmakers had been expected to go through the Senate Judiciary Committee. The panel has several key members on immigration, including Cornyn, as well as Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinAmerica’s waning commitment to the promise of the First Amendment Senate rejects Trump immigration plan What to watch for in the Senate immigration votes MORE (D-Ill.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCongress punts fight over Dreamers to March Pence tours Rio Grande between US and Mexico GOP looks for Plan B after failure of immigration measures MORE (R-S.C.), who introduced immigration legislation earlier this year. 

Not everyone was sold on a potential agreement hatched by Democrats and the president.

Earlier Thursday morning, Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyPavlich: The claim Trump let the mentally ill get guns is a lie Congress fails miserably: For Asian-Americans, immigration proposals are personal attacks Grassley, Dems step up battle over judicial nominees MORE (R-Iowa) asked via a public Twitter message for the White House to brief him on any deal.

"I know [you] undercut [Judiciary Committee] effort 4 biparty agreement," Grassley tweeted.

The Judiciary Committee chairman wasn’t the only lawmaker out of the loop, with rank-and-file Republicans confused about what was in the agreement — or if one had even been reached.

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainLawmakers worry about rise of fake video technology Democrats put Dreamers and their party in danger by playing hardball Trump set a good defense budget, but here is how to make it better MORE (R-Ariz.) called the differing versions on the closed-door dinner, and Trump’s willingness to cut a deal with Democrats, “the most unusual that I ever saw.”

“I don’t know what the deal is. You tell me what the deal is. Nancy and Chuck have one version, and the president has another,” he said. 

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Health Care: Trump eases rules on insurance outside ObamaCare | HHS office on religious rights gets 300 complaints in a month | GOP chair eyes opioid bill vote by Memorial Day HHS official put on leave amid probe into social media posts Trump, Pence to address CPAC this week MORE (R-Texas) indicated on Thursday that he would hold his fire, telling reporters “there are conflicting reports so… I’ll wait and see what the actual substantive policy is.”

And Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchOvernight Finance: NAFTA defenders dig in | Tech pushes Treasury to fight EU on taxes | AT&T faces setback in merger trial | Dems make new case against Trump tax law | Trump fuels fight over gas tax What sort of senator will Mitt Romney be? Not a backbencher, even day one Lawmaker interest in NAFTA intensifies amid Trump moves MORE (R-Utah), noting he wrote the original DREAM Act, said “anything to get it done would please me” but also that he didn’t think the president had reached a deal just yet.

“I’m not sure there's been a real agreement,” he said. “I know they’re both trying to come to an agreement.”