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Five hurdles to a big DACA and border deal

Five hurdles to a big DACA and border deal
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A bipartisan immigration fix is facing an increasingly uphill fight in Congress after President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republicans push Mulvaney, Trump to rescind Gateway funds Pruitt spent K flying aides to Australia to prep for later-canceled visit: report Rosenstein told Trump he is not a target of Mueller probe: report MORE rejected a Senate proposal and sparked a political firestorm by referring to several developing nations as “shithole countries.”

Both sides are digging in on their positions in the fallout, raising fresh questions about what — if any — deal could make it to Trump’s desk before early March.

The Trump administration announced in September that it is ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

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The decision sparked a race of legislative jockeying on Capitol Hill, but there are no signs of an agreement that could win over House Republicans and Trump without alienating Senate Democrats.

Trump rejected one bipartisan proposal from a handful of senators, a blueprint that also drew pushback from GOP senators who warned that the group had tried to leapfrog the rest of the chamber.

“What they need to do is share that with others so it will have broad enough support to actually get passed, so I think that message has now been delivered,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate confirms Trump’s pick to lead NASA DOJ denies reports judicial nominee once called illegal immigrants 'maggots' Overnight Energy: Trump NASA pick advances after drama | White House office to investigate Pruitt's soundproof booth | 170 lawmakers call for Pruitt to resign MORE (R-Texas).

If Congress fails to reach a deal by early March, hundreds of thousands of immigrants will be at risk of being deported.

Here are five hurdles to a deal.

Trump’s comments

Trump roiled the immigration talks on Thursday with his "shithole countries" comment, which has provoked international criticism.

The remarks, reportedly in reference to Haiti, El Salvador and some African nations, have drawn a wave of backlash from Democrats, as well as some Republicans, who warn they could undermine the immigration talks.

The Department of Homeland Security announced Monday it will end Temporary Protected Status for thousands of immigrants from El Salvador, one of the nations put down by Trump. The Senate group’s blueprint would have reshuffled visas from the State Department’s diversity lottery program toward those immigrants.

While Trump has denied that he used the vulgar language, Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinHannity, Kimmel, Farrow among Time's '100 Most Influential' The Hill's Morning Report: 200 Days to the Election Dems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination MORE (D-Ill.) has contradicted him.

And the remarks have inflamed tempers after an earlier White House meeting where Trump signaled a willingness to work with Democrats.

Trump even said he would sign whatever bill Congress sent him at that meeting. Later in the week, he said a deal will also have to satisfy him.

Liberal frustrations

Democrats already skeptical about the contours of negotiations are using Trump’s comments to harden their stances.

Rep. Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondDems call for investigation into lawmakers who sleep at the Capitol Democrats propose .7 billion in grants for election security House Dem opposition mounts to budget deal MORE (D-La.), the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, seized on the remarks as an example that Democrats cannot count on the president to negotiate an immigration deal “in good faith.”

“Now that his true motivations are clear, the Congressional Black Caucus calls on all Members of Congress, including those negotiating on the immigration deal, to reject any and all efforts to end the Diversity Visa Program,” he said.

The comments are the latest sign of the growing pressure Democratic leadership faces in negotiating a DACA agreement.

House Democrats, as well as Senate progressives, have bristled at including changes to the diversity visa program or family-based immigration, saying those two issues should be left to a larger deal on “comprehensive” immigration.

The four “parameters” of the talks have also split House and Senate Democratic leadership. While Durbin confirmed that the two issues, as well as a DACA fix and border security package, are a part of any deal, Rep. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse consumed by leadership races Hoyer: Dems eyeing ways to roll back GOP tax law Trump order targets wide swath of public assistance programs MORE (D-Md.) has refused to say if he agreed to the same conditions.

DREAM Act

The Senate proposal is renewing a fight over what legal protections DACA recipients will receive under any final agreement.

The Senate measure is expected to offer the DREAM Act, which includes a path to citizenship for immigrants brought to the country illegally as children and would expand beyond the roughly 800,000 such immigrants currently impacted by the DACA program.

But granting a path to citizenship for potentially millions of immigrants is a political lightning rod with Trump’s base, which views the DREAM Act as “amnesty.”

Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, told reporters that the DREAM Act is not what the administration has in mind as the legislative fix for DACA.

“We're not looking for DACA to be the DREAM Act,” he said.

Pressed if the White House wouldn’t support a bill that includes the DREAM Act, he added: “That is certainly where we are at this moment.”

GOP divisions

Complicating the chances of an agreement are political and policy divisions among Republicans.

Those differences were on display Friday as lawmakers weighed in on Trump’s remarks. GOP Sens. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonGOP senators raise concerns about babies on Senate floor Dems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination FCC moves forward with rule aimed at protecting US communications networks MORE (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.), who were in the meeting, said they “did not recall” Trump’s comments.

Meanwhile, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFreedomWorks backs Jim Jordan for House Speaker House, Senate GOP compete for cash Some doubt McCarthy or Scalise will ever lead House GOP MORE (R-Wis.) said it was “unhelpful” and Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeHeitkamp becomes first Dem to back Pompeo for secretary of State Duckworth brings her baby to Senate vote, drawing a crowd Senate confirms Trump’s pick to lead NASA MORE (R-Ariz.), who said participants in the meeting told him about the remarks, called them “abhorrent and repulsive.”

But Democrats have also pointed to White House aide Stephen Miller as a larger complication for any immigration negotiations. Miller, a former Senate staffer known for his conservative views, drafted the White House’s wide-ranging immigration demands and took part in Tuesday’s immigration meeting.

Republicans on Capitol Hill are also split about the details of any potential agreement.

A bill spearheaded by Rep. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteJustice to provide access to Comey memos to GOP lawmakers House Judiciary Dem mocks GOP Comey subpoena GOP chairman poised to subpoena DOJ for Comey memos MORE (R-Va.) includes more items on the White House’s wish list, such as aggressive interior enforcement measures. But Flake, asked about the House measure, warned that it was “great for phase two. But it can't be part of this deal."

And after Cotton shot down the bipartisan Senate deal, Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination Senate panel moving ahead with Mueller bill despite McConnell opposition Overnight Defense: Lawmakers worry over Syria strategy | Trump's base critical of strikes | Flake undecided on Pompeo | Coast Guard plans to keep allowing transgender members | GOP chair wants to cut B from Pentagon agencies MORE (R-S.C.) fired back: “Let me know when Sen. Cotton has a proposal that gets a Democrat — I'm dying to look at it.”

Short also said the White House is looking for changes to “chain migration” — allowing citizens and legal residents to sponsor family members — to go beyond just the DACA population and their family members, in contrast to the Senate proposal.

Timing

The setback for a DACA deal comes as lawmakers are running out of time to get an agreement through both chambers and to Trump’s desk.

The first deadline is Jan. 19, when Congress must at least pass a short-term measure to prevent a shutdown.

“I have a hard time seeing it done by the 19th. The commitment from our majority leader was get a bill on the floor by the end of the month. We need some runway between then and March 5,” Flake told reporters when asked about a timeline.

Both parties have downplayed the impact of a court decision which requires the Trump administration to keep DACA in place while litigation plays out, noting that a higher court could overturn the ruling.

Instead, Democrats are demanding a deal by Jan. 19, since they believe they have leverage because of the possibility of a shutdown.

But both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnell32 male senators back Senate women's calls to change harassment rules Duckworth brings her baby to Senate vote, drawing a crowd FreedomWorks backs Jim Jordan for House Speaker MORE (R-Ky.) and Ryan have warned that a DACA deal will not be included as part of a funding bill, arguing that Democrats are trying to create a false deadline.

“It's important to establish that there is no deadline on January 19. Anyone who says otherwise creates an artificial deadline that only impedes our ability to create a quality legislative product,” Cotton, Perdue and GOP Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley: McConnell doesn't control my committee Senate panel punts Mueller protection bill to next week GOP senator: Congress needs ‘to move on’ from Russia probe MORE (Iowa) said in a joint statement.

Read more from The Hill:

Trump admin resumes accepting DACA renewals after court order

Trump attacks Dems over DACA