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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 McConnellMcConnell seeks to end feud with Trump Senate GOP signal they won't filibuster debate of hate crimes bill Colin Powell on Afghanistan: 'We've done all we can do' 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 CottonTom Bryant CottonExclusive: GOP senators seek FBI investigation into Biden Pentagon nominee Nikki Haley says if Trump runs for president in 2024 then she won't Biden picks vocal Trump critics to lead immigration agencies 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 CorkerFox News inks contributor deal with former Democratic House member Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain Roy Blunt won't run for Senate seat in 2022 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 SchumerChuck SchumerHolder, Yates lead letter backing Biden pick for Civil Rights Division at DOJ Capitol Police officer killed in car attack lies in honor in Capitol Rotunda Rep. Andy Kim on Asian hate: 'I've never felt this level of fear' MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate GOP signal they won't filibuster debate of hate crimes bill Application portal for venue grants down for five days with no updates Democrats work to pick up GOP support on anti-Asian hate crimes bill 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 PaulRepublicans need to stop Joe Biden's progressive assault on America Fauci fatigue sets in as top doc sows doubt in vaccine effectiveness Republican legislators target private sector election grants 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 LankfordRubio and bipartisan group of senators push to make daylight saving time permanent Senate inches toward COVID-19 vote after marathon session Ron Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many MORE (R-Okla.) said Thursday that he and Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisBiden's gun control push poses danger for midterms The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings GOP senator recovering from surgery for prostate cancer 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 DurbinDick DurbinSchumer warns Democrats can't let GOP block expansive agenda Holder, Yates lead letter backing Biden pick for Civil Rights Division at DOJ Biden's gun control push poses danger for midterms MORE (D-Ill.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP lawmaker 'encouraged' by Biden's Afghanistan strategy Biden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  Graham: 'A full withdrawal from Afghanistan is dumber than dirt and devilishly dangerous' 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 GrassleyChuck GrassleyHolder, Yates lead letter backing Biden pick for Civil Rights Division at DOJ Number of migrants detained at southern border reaches 15-year high: reports Grassley, Cornyn push for Senate border hearing 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 McCainTrump knocks CNN for 'completely false' report Gaetz was denied meeting The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - Biden, lawmakers start down a road with infrastructure Sylvester Stallone reportedly joins Trump's Mar-a-Lago 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 CruzCruz raises .3 million in first quarter of 2021 Boehner says he voted for Trump, didn't push back on election claims because he's retired Boehner: Trump's claims of stolen election a 'sad moment in American history' 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 HatchPress: Forget bipartisanship — it's dead! Privatization of foster care has been a disaster for children Remembering Ted Kennedy highlights decline of the Senate 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.”