Senate

GOP senators: ‘Dreamers’ deal will likely end up in funding bill

Greg Nash

Republican senators are predicting that a fix for a key Obama-era immigration program will end up in next month’s government funding bill, as they search for ways to break a months-long stalemate. 

Several GOP senators said Monday that the mammoth bill, known as an omnibus, would likely be the vehicle for a deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that including a short-term deal on DACA in the omnibus was the most likely of three potential paths forward. 
 
“That’s probably the most likely thing, when we write the funding of the government bill we’ll extend DACA legislatively, making it legal for a year or two and kind of punting it,” Graham told reporters. 
 
The other two options, in Graham’s view, are Congress doing nothing or President Trump realizing there is a “sweet spot” that would pair a permanent fix for DACA with border wall funding. 
 
{mosads}Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), while stressing she would rather have a permanent fix, predicted that a years-long immigration agreement in the March funding bill is likely. 
 
“I have a feeling what we may see on this is … a DACA fix and some border security, a much smaller package, that will be attached to the March 22 spending bill. If I was guessing what was going to happen, I think that’s what may happen,” Capito told WRNR, a West Virginia radio station. 
 
The pivot to a short-term DACA agreement and the possibility of attaching it to the government funding bill comes after senators rejected four immigration proposals, including the White House framework and a narrower centrist deal, earlier this month. 
 
The setback meant no clear end to a months-long stalemate and raised new questions about what, if anything, could pass Congress and win over Trump. 

 
Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) are working on legislation that would pair a three-year DACA extension with $7.6 billion in border security funding. Aides told The Hill late last week that they were discussing trying to get it included in the omnibus. 
 
Congress has until March 24 to pass a government funding bill and prevent the third partial shutdown of the year. 
 
Flake noted on Monday that Congress does “better with a deadline” and including a DACA fix in the omnibus was their “best” option after the Senate failed to pass a stand-alone measure. 
 
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said he doesn’t want the two to be linked, but that he wouldn’t be “surprised” if that happens.
 
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see the issue come up when we vote on the budget. I hope it doesn’t. I think you’re mixing apples and oranges, but I wouldn’t be surprised,” he told reporters. 
 
The omnibus likely represents Democrats’ next, best point of leverage to try to force a DACA deal going forward.
 
In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will need the support of at least nine Democrats to pass the funding bill. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) could be forced to lean on Democrats if conservatives balk over the higher spending levels. 
 
McConnell has previously voiced opposition to including DACA in short-term government funding bills but hasn’t publicly weighed in on linking it to the March omnibus. 
 
A spokesman told The Hill late last week that he didn’t have any announcements on the funding bill but pointed to comments McConnell made after the Senate voted down the four immigration proposals. 

“If a solution is developed in the future that can pass both the House and the Senate and be signed into law by the president, it should be considered. But for that to happen, Democrats will need to take a second look at these core elements of necessary reform,” he said at the time.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), McConnell’s No. 2, told reporters earlier this month that “some temporary provision” could be included if both sides can reach an agreement.  

The government funding deadline comes weeks after a March 5 deadline initially created by the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA, which allows certain immigrants brought into the country illegally as children to work and go to school. 
 
But two court decisions requiring the program to remain on the books while litigation plays out have thrown that time frame into limbo. The Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration’s request to leapfrog an appeals court and take up their appeal of one of the injunctions. 
Tags Donald Trump Heidi Heitkamp Jeff Flake John Cornyn John Kennedy Lindsey Graham Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan Shelley Moore Capito

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