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 McConnellAn August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done After police rip Trump for Jan. 6, McCarthy again blames Pelosi The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands 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 CottonEx-Rep. Abby Finkenauer running for Senate in Iowa Poll: Trump leads 2024 GOP primary trailed by Pence, DeSantis Republicans raise concerns about Olympians using digital yuan during Beijing Games 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 CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  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 SchumerAn August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Schumer's moment to transform transit and deepen democracy MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate votes to take up infrastructure deal Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on Eight Republicans join Democrats to confirm head of DOJ environmental division 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 PaulThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators Only two people cited by TSA for mask violations have agreed to pay fine Senators reach billion deal on emergency Capitol security bill 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 LankfordAbbott slams Ben & Jerry's for Palestine support: 'Disgraceful' Democrat stalls Biden's border nominee Republican calls on Oklahoma to ban Ben & Jerry's MORE (R-Okla.) said Thursday that he and Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands GOP senator credits Sinema for infrastructure deal The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators 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 DurbinBiden backs effort to include immigration in budget package Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report GOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate MORE (D-Ill.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators The 17 Republicans who voted to advance the Senate infrastructure bill 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 GrassleyThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators 'Blue wave' Democrats eye comebacks after losing reelection 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 McCainMeghan McCain to produce 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff' Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Meghan McCain on Pelosi, McCarthy fight: 'I think they're all bad' 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 Cruz228 Republican lawmakers urge Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade GOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate Human rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action 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 HatchDrug prices are declining amid inflation fears The national action imperative to achieve 30 by 30 Financial market transactions should not be taxed or restricted 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.”