GOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration

GOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration
© Getty Images

The year-end immigration debate is splitting both parties as lawmakers eyeing campaigns in 2018 and 2020 are trying to push the discussion in different directions.

Democrats who are considering running for president in 2020 are calling for a hard line by threatening a government shutdown if Republicans don’t agree to protect young immigrants who came to the country illegally as children from deportation.

ADVERTISEMENT

Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenPoll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Overnight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia Warren-backed amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to defense bill MORE (D-Mass.), Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisJD Vance takes aim at culture wars, childless politicians Poll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Ron Johnson: 'I may not be the best candidate' for 2022 midterms MORE (D-Calif.), Cory BookerCory BookerJD Vance takes aim at culture wars, childless politicians Poll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Democrats criticize FBI's handling of tip line in Kavanaugh investigation MORE (D-N.J.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersPoll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Overnight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia US launches second Somalia strike in week MORE (I-Vt.), all prospects to run for president in three years, say they won’t vote for a year-end funding bill while these immigrants face the threat of deportation.

“I have been clear,” Harris said on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon, noting the looming deadline to fund the government. “Any bill that funds the government must also include a fix for” the young immigrants.

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have also warned they would oppose spending legislation unless some concessions are made to protect these so-called Dreamers.

But vulnerable Democrats running for reelection next year in states that President Trump won don’t want any part of that strategy. They are aiming to show swing voters who backed Trump that they’re willing to work with Republicans when it makes sense.

“I think it’s stupid talk. You don’t want to shut the government down. That’s not where I’m going to be,” said Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterBipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor GOP blocks infrastructure debate as negotiators near deal GOP negotiators say they'll vote to start infrastructure debate next week MORE (D-Mont.), who is running for reelection in a state Trump won by more than 20 points over Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden flexes presidential muscle on campaign trail with Virginia's McAuliffe Shontel Brown gaining ground against Nina Turner in Ohio: poll Biden hits trail for McAuliffe in test of his political brand MORE.

Tester said he wants the Dreamers taken care of, but “you don’t shut the government down.”

It’s one of the few rifts that has emerged this year between liberals and centrists, who have stayed remarkably unified in opposition to Trump’s agenda.

Republicans failed to pick up a single Democrat in either chamber to vote for their health-care or tax-reform bills.

Senate Republicans have tried to soften up centrist Democrats in red states ahead of the midterm elections by portraying them as knee-jerk obstructionists blocking Trump’s agenda.

These Democrats have pushed back by arguing they’re ready to work with the president on tax reform and other issues if he embraces some of their ideas.

Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillGiuliani to stump for Greitens in Missouri McCaskill shares new July 4 family tradition: Watching Capitol riot video Joe Manchin's secret MORE (D-Mo.), who is up for reelection next year in a state Trump carried with 56 percent of the vote, said, “I don’t have much appetite for a government shutdown and I don’t like lines in the sand.”

McCaskill said “fixing the law for the Dreamers is a very big priority,” but declined to endorse the position of liberal Democrats. 

“I guess it means I’m not in the mix for 2020,” she quipped, when a reporter noted that some colleagues with White House ambitions want to make funding the government contingent on an immigration deal.

The party’s top leaders, Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerMcConnell pushes vaccines, but GOP muddles his message Biden administration stokes frustration over Canada Schumer blasts McCarthy for picking people who 'supported the big lie' for Jan. 6 panel MORE (N.Y.) and House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiYellen to Congress: Raise the debt ceiling or risk 'irreparable harm' Freedom Caucus presses McCarthy to force vote to oust Pelosi The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Tokyo Olympics kick off with 2020-style opening ceremony MORE (Calif.), have assiduously avoided threats of a government shutdown, knowing it could put some of their colleagues in a tough spot.

Schumer downplayed the prospect of Democrats blocking a spending measure to force Republicans to replace the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that President Obama created in 2012 to halt deportations for certain young immigrants who came to the country illegally as children.

“We don’t think we’re going to get to that. There are good negotiations occurring between Democrats and Republicans to come up with a good DACA program, as well as some good border security,” he said Tuesday after a meeting of the Democratic caucus.

Schumer’s comments are aimed at setting expectations to the left wing of his party and immigration-reform activists, who have been pressing hard for DACA provisions — with no border security language — signed into law this month.

On the other side of the aisle, Republicans are dealing with their own divisions.

GOP leaders are talking tough about immigration in public, but behind the scenes they appear eager to strike a deal with Democrats.

Conservatives deride giving legal status to immigrants in the U.S. illegally, including those brought to the country as young children, as “amnesty.”

While some Republicans, such as Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeBiden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Biden to nominate Jane Hartley as UK ambassador: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Voting rights will be on '22, '24 ballots MORE (Ariz.), want to strike an immigration deal quickly, others are saying it will take weeks of additional negotiation and proposing trade-offs that Democrats dismiss as unacceptable.

Flake, who has publicly clashed with Trump, told reporters after meeting with the president Tuesday that he thinks an immigration deal is possible before Christmas. He discussed immigration reform briefly with the president before their meeting, which was focused on trade. 

Flake is working with Sens. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetHow Sen. Graham can help fix the labor shortage with commonsense immigration reform For true American prosperity, make the child tax credit permanent Colorado lawmaker warns of fire season becoming year-round MORE (D-Colo.) and Dick DurbinDick DurbinNew York gun rights case before Supreme Court with massive consequences  Schumer leaves door open for second vote on bipartisan infrastructure deal Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor MORE (D-Ill.) to reach a compromise to help the Dreamers and expressed some irritation with colleagues for dragging their feet.

“Some of us are trying to actually make a law, not make a point. We’ve done enough of making a point,” said Flake, who is not running for reelection in 2018. 

Other Republicans are taking a tougher line with Democrats in the negotiations, raising doubts about the prospect of passing bipartisan legislation this month.

A group of Republicans led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi considers adding GOP voices to Jan. 6 panel Ex-Rep. Abby Finkenauer running for Senate in Iowa Six takeaways: What the FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections MORE (Iowa) and Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynSchumer feels pressure from all sides on spending strategy Data reveal big opportunity to finish the vaccine job GOP senators invite Yellen to brief them on debt ceiling expiration, inflation MORE (Texas) on Tuesday introduced the SECURE Act, which includes some tough immigration enforcement measures such as permanent authorization of the E-Verify program.

E-Verify, an internet-based system that enables employers to quickly verify the legal status of their employees, is a poison-pill provision for Democrats.

“This proposal, as I have told them personally, cannot be considered a good faith effort to provide protection for the Dreamers,” Durbin fumed in a statement.

Durbin accused the group of trying to delay and stop “any serious bipartisan effort to solve this crisis.”

The GOP legislation would also stop what is known as “chain migration.” It would allow immigrants to bring only their spouses and young children into the country.

The co-sponsors included Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate braces for a nasty debt ceiling fight Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor How Sen. Graham can help fix the labor shortage with commonsense immigration reform MORE (R-S.C.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenators hail 'historic changes' as competing proposals to tackle military sexual assault advance Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor Overnight Defense: Military justice overhaul included in defense bill | Pentagon watchdog to review security of 'nuclear football' | Pentagon carries out first air strike in Somalia under Biden MORE (R-N.C.), 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.), David Perdue (R-Ga.) and 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.).

Tillis, who has had discussions with Durbin “for months” and spoken with Flake, said a deal is possible but questioned getting it done before next year.

“We’ve got a lot more to do. We’ve got [the] work visa program, we’ve got the remainder of the illegally present population and a number of areas we can really build on,” he said.

He said it would be “very ambitious given some of the gaps we got to bridge” to reach an agreement before 2018.

Yet House Republicans, at risk of losing their seats in a possible Democratic wave election next year, want to take the issue off the table ahead of 2018.

A group of 34 Republicans asked Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump clash ahead: Ron DeSantis positions himself as GOP's future in a direct-mail piece Cutting critical family support won't solve the labor crisis Juan Williams: Trump's GOP descends into farce MORE (R-Wis.) in a letter Tuesday to schedule a vote to protect Dreamers later this month.

“We are compelled to act immediately because many DACA recipients are about to lose or have already lost their permits in the wake of the program’s rescission,” they wrote.