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 McConnellDemocrats: McConnell impeachment trial rules a 'cover up,' 'national disgrace' Romney pledges 'open mind' ahead of impeachment trial McConnell proposes compressed schedule for impeachment trial 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 CottonHillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Facebook deepfake ban falls short | House passes bills to win 5G race | Feds sound alarm on cyberthreat from Iran | Ivanka Trump appearance at tech show sparks backlash Cotton introduces bill blocking intel sharing with countries relying on Huawei for 5G GOP senators introduce resolution to change rules, dismiss impeachment without articles 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 CorkerRNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing 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 SchumerTrump administration installs plaque marking finish of 100 miles of border wall Sanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change Schumer votes against USMCA, citing climate implications MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynDemocrats worry a speedy impeachment trial will shut out public Sunday shows - All eyes on Senate impeachment trial Cornyn disputes GAO report on withholding of Ukraine aid: It's 'certainly not a crime' 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 PaulJuan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump Mitch McConnell may win the impeachment and lose the Senate GOP threatens to weaponize impeachment witnesses amid standoff 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 LankfordDemocrats sound election security alarm after Russia's Burisma hack Enes Kanter sees political stardom — after NBA and WWE 2020 predictions: Trump will lose — if not in the Senate, then with the voters MORE (R-Okla.) said Thursday that he and Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisJuan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump Senate GOP mulls speeding up Trump impeachment trial Republicans will pay on Election Day for politicizing Trump's impeachment 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 DurbinSunday shows - All eyes on Senate impeachment trial Durbin says he hopes enough GOP senators know that 'history will find you' Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for Senate impeachment trial MORE (D-Ill.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWhite House appoints GOP House members to advise Trump's impeachment team Hypocrisy is the currency of the realm for GOP in the age of Trump Lawmakers push back at Pentagon's possible Africa drawdown 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 GrassleyGOP can beat Democrats after impeachment — but it needs to do this one thing Trump administration planning to crack down on 'birth tourism': report Senate begins preparations for Trump trial 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 McCainMartha McSally fundraises off 'liberal hack' remark to CNN reporter Meghan McCain blasts NY Times: 'Everyone already knows how much you despise' conservative women GOP senator calls CNN reporter a 'liberal hack' when asked about Parnas materials 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 CruzJuan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump Sunday shows - All eyes on Senate impeachment trial Cruz: Hearing from witnesses could extend Senate trial to up to 8 weeks 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 HatchKey Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock Trump awards Medal of Freedom to racing industry icon Roger Penske Trump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals 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.”