GOP senators skeptical of DACA deal in funding bill

GOP senators skeptical of DACA deal in funding bill
© Greg Nash

Senate Republicans on Wednesday appeared skeptical that a deal on a key Obama-era immigration program will end up in a mammoth government funding bill despite reports of an 11th-hour push by the White House.

"I don't see — this [omnibus] has got lots of moving parts associated with it. ... I think it's going to be a heavy lift in light of all the other elements," GOP Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate Commerce presses Facebook, Cambridge Analytic for answers on data Overnight Tech: Facebook faces crisis over Cambridge Analytica data | Lawmakers demand answers | What to watch for next | Day one of AT&T's merger trial | Self-driving Uber car kills pedestrian White House, Democrats reject competing DACA offers MORE (R-S.D.), the No. 3 Senate Republican, said of a possible deal to include Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) provisions in a funding proposal. 

Asked if he had heard about a potential agreement on the DACA program, he said with a laugh: "Well, I see there's statements by the president about it." 

It was reported by The Washington Post earlier Wednesday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpLieu: There will be 'widespread civil unrest' if Trump fires Mueller Attorneys for Trump, Mueller hold face-to-face meeting to discuss potential interview topics: report Trump tariffs not helpful for nuclear talks, South Korea says MORE was open to a deal for "Dreamers," immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, in a government funding package in exchange for money for a proposed border wall. 


Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump adds to legal team after attacks on Mueller Senate tees up Yemen vote for Tuesday Senate GOP: Legislation to protect Mueller not needed MORE (R-Texas) — the Senate majority whip who has been in the center of the immigration fight — also shot down including a DACA-border security agreement in next week's government funding bill.

"I don't," he said when asked if he saw the immigration program being included. He added that he didn't think Congress could reach an agreement.

Deputy White House press secretary Raj Shah told The Associated Press that while the administration continues to negotiate on DACA, it would oppose a three-year extension in exchange for three years of border security funding.

Asked about a possible deal, Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeGOP leaders see finish line on omnibus deal Congress races to finish .2 trillion funding bill GOP open to 3-year DACA fix in spending bill MORE (R-Okla.), a senior House appropriator, quipped: "I've heard what I've read about it."

The uncertainty comes as lawmakers have until March 23 to pass the mammoth funding bill and prevent the third government shutdown of the year. Lawmakers are scrambling to wrap up negotiations with several issues still under discussion.

GOP senators said the immigration issue did not come up during a closed-door caucus lunch on Wednesday.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRubio: McCabe 'should've been allowed to finish through the weekend' For Tillerson, bucking Trump became a job-killer At least six dead after pedestrian bridge collapses on cars in Florida MORE (R-Fla.) appeared skeptical, noting lawmakers would be hearing more about such an agreement if it was in play.

"I don't know if that's something we're going to be able to do on the omni," he said.  "[Is it] possible? Sure, if it's part of the [omnibus]. ... But being possible and being the right thing are two separate things."

Sen. Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsGOP senators skeptical of DACA deal in funding bill Overnight Cybersecurity: Fallout from Tillerson's ouster at State | Trump blocks Broadcom deal | Military officials push for aggressive cyber stance Top officials: U.S. must shift to more aggressive cyber approach MORE (R-S.D.) said, "I have seen nothing of substance yet."

The debate over DACA has largely stalemated since the Senate rejected three proposals, including the White House framework, last month.

And a March 5 deadline, established when the Trump administration announced it was ending the program last year, came and passed with no action from Congress. The program currently remains in place while the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reviews a U.S. district court injunction barring the administration from ending the program.

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeSenate GOP: Legislation to protect Mueller not needed Trump prepared to hit China with B in annual tariffs: report White House, Democrats reject competing DACA offers MORE (R-Ariz.) has twice tried to pass legislation that included a three-year DACA extension for three years of border security funding. He was blocked twice by Republican colleagues, including as recently as Tuesday.

Flake noted that aside from the Post report, he was in the dark, but would reach out to Vice President Pence, who he has previously called to talk immigration policy with.

GOP Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordTrump presses GOP to change Senate rules Lawmakers rally to defend Mueller after McCabe exit Republican on Trump lawyer: A ‘typical attorney’ would call for end of Mueller probe MORE (Okla.) said following The Washington Post report that a three-year deal "fails to provide long-term certainty for our national security or immigrant families. We need to pursue a permanent solution now." 

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinTrump vows tougher borders to fight opioid epidemic Clinton: 'I meant no disrespect' with Trump voter comments Lawmakers rally to defend Mueller after McCabe exit MORE (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said he heard “three different versions” of what the White House is offering.

“My only sources are reporters and you know how shaky that is,” he said.

He added that the president was “totally unreliable,” but he is “grasping at straws to find something to help these [DACA recipients].”

Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyGOP leaders see finish line on omnibus deal This week: Congress races to prevent third shutdown GOP senators skeptical of DACA deal in funding bill MORE (R-Ala.) refused to say if the administration approached him or his staff about trying to get a DACA-border security deal in the bill. Asked, he hesitated for several seconds before saying, "We talk about a lot of things."
He added lawmakers "haven't reached a final agreement" about if any border wall funding will be included. 
Updated: 4:38 p.m.