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Hoyer suggests Dems won’t demand DACA on spending bill

Hoyer suggests Dems won’t demand DACA on spending bill
© Greg Nash

Rep. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDems damp down hopes for climate change agenda On The Money: Stocks slide for second day as Trump blames 'loco' Fed | Mulvaney calls for unity at consumer bureau | Pelosi says Dems will go after Trump tax returns Pelosi: Trump tax returns ‘one of the first things we’d do’ if Dems win House MORE (D-Md.) suggested Tuesday that Democrats won’t insist on "Dreamer" protections as part of this month’s omnibus spending bill.

“I think the omnibus needs to be considered on its own merits, and then we ought to move ahead on DACA,” Hoyer told reporters during his weekly press briefing in the Capitol, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

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That strategy would mark a shift from last month, when Hoyer, Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiElection Countdown: Dems outraise GOP in final stretch | 2018 midterms already most expensive in history | What to watch in second Cruz-O'Rourke debate | Trump raises 0M for reelection | Why Dems fear Avenatti's approach GOP strategist says Trump could want border wall fight to continue to excite base McConnell says deficits 'not a Republican problem' MORE (D-Calif.) and other Democratic leaders had rejected a bipartisan budget agreement because it was not accompanied by a specific commitment from Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanSaudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP GOP group makes late play in Iowa seat once seen as lost Adelsons donated M in September to help GOP in midterms MORE (R-Wis.) to consider legislation salvaging DACA, which President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East MORE is trying to wind down. The strategy also runs the risk of angering the immigrant rights activists pressing Democrats to use every tool they’ve got to solidify DACA protections. 

Ryan and GOP leaders will need Democratic votes to pass the omnibus due to entrenched opposition from Republican spending hawks — a dynamic Democrats know well.

“The Speaker will not have the votes on his side of the aisle to pass the bill,” Hoyer said. “So he’ll have to expect, and count on, Democratic votes.”

Yet Democrats don’t seem ready to use their leverage to insist on DACA protections as part of the package. Instead, they’re pressuring Ryan to bring a series of separate DACA bills to the floor in back-to-back votes, as Senate GOP leaders had done last month in the upper chamber.

“I’m not going to draw a direct relationship between the two. We want to get DACA done; we want to do what the president said he would do: pass a bill here, he’ll sign it, he’ll take the heat [from] his right wing,” Hoyer said.

Trump, in announcing the end of DACA last fall, had given Congress six months to come up with a legislative replacement to protect Dreamers, hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children. That deadline passed on Monday, leading Hoyer and Democrats to accuse Ryan of reneging on his repeated vows to act.

“Mr. Ryan kept telling me for months and months, ‘Oh, March 5. We have a lot of time,’ ” Hoyer said. “If it were March 5, 2019, apparently these Republicans don’t have enough time to pass substantive legislation.”

While Democrats are placing the blame for inaction squarely on the majority Republicans, some immigrant rights activists have shifted their critical gaze on Democrats. On Monday, a number of Dreamers descended on Capitol Hill to demand legislative protections. As part of the protest, they rallied in front of the Democrats’ campaign headquarters with accusations that party leaders have been “fake allies.” 

Congress has until March 23 to pass the omnibus spending bill or large parts of the federal government will shut down. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyDemocrats in swing districts advised to avoid talking about immigration The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Trump travels to hurricane-ravaged Florida, Georgia McCarthy brother-in-law under scrutiny for earning federal contracts based on Native American identity claim MORE (R-Calif.) told the GOP conference Tuesday that he’s eyeing a House vote on the package next week — a timeline Hoyer endorsed.

“I think that would be good,” he said. “[But] it’s possible only if we come to a bipartisan agreement.”

Earlier in the year, Hoyer had been involved in a series of DACA talks with the deputy leaders of each party and chamber, a group that included Sens. John CornynJohn CornynFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Live coverage: Cruz faces O'Rourke in Texas debate showdown Trump, Feinstein feud intensifies over appeals court nominees MORE (R-Texas) and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGOP senators: Mnuchin should not go to Saudi Arabia Durbin opposes Saudi arms sale over missing journalist Noisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children? MORE (D-Ill.), as well as McCarthy. Since the Senate last month staged a series of failed immigration votes, however, the group has all but disbanded.

“There was no formal way it was banded, if you will, so it certainly hasn’t been formally disbanded. But we haven’t met,” Hoyer said. “In my view, we weren’t making much progress.”

Providing Congress with some breathing room, a federal court in January blocked Trump’s attempt to unwind DACA, effectively allowing the program to continue operating while the court weighs the underlying question of the program’s constitutionality.

House GOP leaders seem to be leaning on that decision as a reason not to stage any DACA votes, at least for the time being. Hoyer noted that the Republicans have a track record of moving quickly on big proposals when they benefit the party’s donors. 

“But DACA,” he lamented, “they haven’t been able to move in five months.”