Schumer downplays shutdown chances over DACA fight

Schumer downplays shutdown chances over DACA fight
© Camille Fine

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerThis week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation Red-state Dem tells Schumer to 'kiss my you know what' on Supreme Court vote Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick MORE (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday batted down suggestions that a fight over a key Obama-era immigration program would spark a government shutdown.

"We don't think we're going to get to that. There are good negotiations occurring between Democrats and Republicans to come up with a good DACA program, as well as some good border security," Schumer told reporters when asked if Democrats will support the year-end spending bill.

He added that Democrats "think we're moving in the right direction there."

Lawmakers are currently fighting over how, and when, to pass a legislative fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows immigrants brought into the country illegally as children to go to school and work. President Trump in September announced that he would rescind the program, but gave Congress six months to come up with a solution.

Several House Democrats, and a growing number of Senate progressives, are pledging to oppose any end-of-the-year government funding bill without a deal on the immigration program.

But GOP leadership and the administration is publicly adamant that any deal, which they say must include tougher border security, will not end up in the government funding bill.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash McConnell: Russians are not our friends Russians' indictment casts shadow ahead of Trump-Putin summit MORE (R-Texas) said a group of Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate GOP poised to break record on Trump's court picks This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation Kavanaugh paper chase heats up MORE (R-Iowa), were willing to "enter into good-faith negotiations" with Democrats.

"It simply doesn't advance the interest of these DACA recipients to try to force us into a shutdown narrative. ... We are certainly willing to enter into those good-faith negotiations but they do not belong in the end-of-the-year spending, appropriations debate," he told reporters.

Pressed separately about why Republicans would not link the two issues, Cornyn — who noted a DACA fix will not get done this year — added that "frankly, it doesn't unify our conference."

Cornyn and Grassley made an offer to Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Dems press for info on any deals from Trump-Putin meeting Too many Americans go to prison but Congress can fix this problem This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation MORE (D-Ill.), who has taken the lead in negotiating for Democrats, that paired Cornyn's border security and interior enforcement bill with an immigration fix that did not include a path to citizenship.

Durbin noted that he made a counteroffer that paired up the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act with roughly a dozen provisions from Cornyn's border security bill.

Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, downplayed the characterization that the back-and-forth constituted negotiating.

"There hasn't been any negotiation yet. ... I've had several conversations with him, but not negotiations, only to present what I thought was a clean slate approach, that our bill anything in it is negotiable," he told reporters on Tuesday.

Grassley also introduced legislation on Tuesday known as the SECURE Act, backed only by GOP senators, aimed at addressing DACA but also including controversial provisions like targeting cities that don't comply with federal immigration law —considered a non-starter for Democrats.

Separately from Grassley's group, Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeKelly lobbied Republicans to rebuke Trump after Putin press conference: report Senate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash Flake to Trump: 'Fake news' didn't side with Putin, you did MORE (R-Ariz.) is working with a bipartisan group of senators, including Durbin and Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetHarley stunner spikes tension with Trump over trade policy Races to watch in Tuesday’s primaries Democrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor MORE (D-Colo.), to try to come up with an immigration deal.

Flake urged his colleagues from the Senate floor earlier Tuesday to put politics aside and come up with a bill that Trump would sign.

"The time has come for us to work together to deliver a real solution. We don't need partisan bills that send a message. We need bipartisan solutions that can pass the Senate," Flake said.

Flake, explaining his decision to vote for the tax plan, said late last week that he had gotten a "firm commitment from the Senate leadership and the administration to work with me" on the issue.

But Cornyn downplayed what had been promised to Flake, saying GOP leadership had given him neither a commitment on a timeline nor a commitment on policies.

Asked if it was more of a "handshake agreement," he added: "That's fair."