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Trump, GOP senators: No DACA deal in spending bill

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President Trump and GOP senators agreed during a closed-door White House meeting that they would not include a fix for a key Obama-era program as part of an end-of-the-year spending bill.

“There was also a consensus that anyone on the other side of the aisle who thinks that they’re just going to codify DACA in the year-end appropriations bill, it may not be very well received,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) told reporters.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) added that senators and Trump agreed that an immigration deal would not be included in “omnibus or any other … must-pass piece of legislation in 2017.”

“Absolutely not on the omnibus under no circumstances. Sen. McConnell says the same thing,” Cotton added.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he didn’t have any announcements on spending bills and declined to discuss private conversations. 

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Several GOP senators, including Cotton, Tillis and Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, met with Trump at the White House to discuss immigration and their ongoing negotiations on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Trump decided earlier this year that he would phase out DACA, which allows undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children to work and go to school without fear of deportation.

Lawmakers have until early 2018 to come up with an agreement. If they fail, hundreds of thousands of immigrants who are currently in the country illegally would be at risk of being deported.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who was in the meeting, predicted that Congress would pass legislation in January or February.

“This is not going to be part of the year-end omnibus or CR,” he told reporters, referring to a short-term funding bill.

The decision, if Republicans stick to the deal, would set up an end-of-the-year showdown with Democrats.

Democrats are warning they will demand a DACA fix either before or as part of the December government funding bill.

“We have to find a way to get this done before the end of the year,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “[This] limits the opportunities.”

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), the chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), quickly blasted the agreement by Republicans and Trump as a “scheme to hold the DREAM Act hostage.”

“A clean bipartisan, bicameral Dream Act is the solution and should be taken up for a vote without delay. The CHC will work for as long as it takes to get this done before this Congress goes home for the holidays,” she said.

Durbin has been talking with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) about a potential agreement, but said on Thursday that he was still waiting to get an initial list from Republicans on what they want on border security.

The meeting, senators said, was to give Trump a general update on their framework before he leaves Friday to go to Asia.

A group of GOP senators, headed up by Grassley, have been working on the broad contours of a potential DACA and border security agreement.

Sens. David Perdue (R-Ga.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Cotton and Tillis, who are a part of the talks and attended Thursday’s meeting, each said separately that an immigration deal would need to include tougher border security measures and a crackdown on “chain migration.”

“There was consensus that the parameters that we that we set forth was a good phase one, and then we quickly move to phase two,” Tillis said.

Lankford added that the next step for Republicans would be to work out a consensus within the Grassley group before opening up wider negotiations.

Conservatives and immigration hawks have been clamoring for steep curbs to legal immigration, but senators, at the moment, appear to be setting that aside.

Cotton, who sponsored the RAISE Act with Perdue, noted that he had ideas on green card reforms and the guest worker program, but signaled those could be left out of a DACA deal.

He described the potential agreement as a “tightly bound coherent package.”

“If you keep trying to add more and more into the bill I think it likely collapses under its own weight,” he said. 

Updated: 3:52 p.m.

Tags Chuck Grassley DACA Dick Durbin Immigration James Lankford John Cornyn Lindsey Graham Mitch McConnell omnibus Thom Tillis Tom Cotton

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