GOP puts brakes on Trump's DACA deal with Democrats

GOP puts brakes on Trump's DACA deal with Democrats
© Getty

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. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“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 McConnellDACA recipient claims Trump is holding ‘immigrant youth hostage’ amid quest for wall Former House Republican: Trump will lose the presidency if he backs away from border security Pence quotes MLK in pitch for Trump's immigration proposal 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 CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonOn The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Overnight Defense: Trump faces blowback over report he discussed leaving NATO | Pentagon extends mission on border | Senate advances measure bucking Trump on Russia sanctions 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 CorkerThe Memo: Romney moves stir worries in Trump World Senate GOP names first female members to Judiciary panel Former US special envoy to anti-ISIS coalition joins Stanford University as lecturer 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerProtecting our judiciary must be a priority in the 116th Congress Baldwin's Trump plays 'Deal or No Deal' with shutdown on 'Saturday Night Live' Sunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump tells GOP senators he’s sticking to Syria and Afghanistan pullout  Texas governor, top lawmakers tell Trump not to use hurricane relief funds to build border wall The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s attorney general pick passes first test 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 PaulPressure mounts for Trump to reconsider Syria withdrawal House Republicans call for moving State of the Union to Senate chamber GOP rep: 'Rand Paul is giving the president bad advice' on Afghanistan and Syria 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 LankfordGOP senator calls Trump immigration offer a 'straw man proposal' not meant to become law Sunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Senate GOP blocks bill to reopen Homeland Security MORE (R-Okla.) said Thursday that he and Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisCentrist efforts to convince Trump to end shutdown falter GOP reasserts NATO support after report on Trump’s wavering Leaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight 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 DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinBlagojevich's wife 'speechless' that officer's sentence less than half of husband's Trump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback Democrats signal they'll reject Trump shutdown proposal MORE (D-Ill.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamExperts warn of persistent ISIS threat after suicide bombing Graham: Trump should meet Pakistan's leader to reset relations State of American politics is all power games and partisanship 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 GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyDem calls for Cohen to testify before Senate panel over explosive report Senate Republicans eye rules change to speed Trump nominees IRS shutdown plan fails to quell worries 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 McCainListen, learn and lead: Congressional newcomers should leave the extremist tactics at home Overnight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal Bipartisan senators reintroduce bill to prevent Trump from withdrawing from NATO 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 CruzGroup aiming to draft Beto O’Rourke unveils first 2020 video Howard Dean looking for a 'younger, newer' Democratic nominee in 2020 Congress can stop the war on science 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 HatchPhRMA CEO 'hopeful' Trump officials will back down on drug pricing move Live coverage: Trump AG pick grilled on Mueller probe at confirmation hearing Trump praises RNC chairwoman after she criticizes her uncle Mitt Romney 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.”