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 Ann WarrenCarbon tax could give liberals vast power to grow federal government Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her More Massachusetts Voters Prefer Deval Patrick for President than Elizabeth Warren MORE (D-Mass.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisCelebrities, lawmakers wear black to support Kavanaugh’s accuser Dems fight to protect Mueller amid Rosenstein rumors Kamala Harris calls for Senate to protect Mueller probe as Rosenstein faces potential dismissal MORE (D-Calif.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerEx-White House official revises statement to Mueller after Flynn guilty plea: report CNN editor: Booker's 'groping incident' 'different' from Kavanaugh allegation Poll: Most Massachusetts voters don't think Warren should run for president in 2020 MORE (D-N.J.) and Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersCarbon tax could give liberals vast power to grow federal government Poll: Gillum leads DeSantis by 4 points in Florida Judd Gregg: Two ideas whose time has not come 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) TesterDems offer resolution to force vote to overturn IRS guidance limiting donor disclosure Nelson campaign to donate K from Al Franken group to charity Montana lawmakers cheer recommendation to ban mining north of Yellowstone 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 Clinton2016 pollsters erred by not weighing education on state level, says political analyst Could President Trump's talk of a 'red wave' cause his supporters to stay home in midterms? Dem group targets Trump in M voter registration campaign: report 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 McCaskillDisclosures suggest rebates and insurers responsible for rising out-of-pocket drug costs Midterm polling data favors Democrats — in moderation Nelson campaign to donate K from Al Franken group to charity 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation MORE (N.Y.) and House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDisclosures suggest rebates and insurers responsible for rising out-of-pocket drug costs Democrats keeping GOP from motivating voters with Trump impeachment threat, analyst says Celebrities, lawmakers wear black to support Kavanaugh’s accuser 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 FlakeGOP opens door to holding Kavanaugh committee vote this week Police arrest 128 protesting Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill GOP launches counteroffensive on Kavanaugh 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 BennetOvernight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan senators unveil proposal to crack down on surprise medical bills Multiple NFL players continue on-field protests during national anthem MORE (D-Colo.) and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinAmnesty International calls to halt Kavanaugh nomination Fox's Chris Wallace: All 10 Democratic Senate Judiciary members again declined interview invitations Durbin: ‘No reason’ for people to remember Kavanaugh at party accuser describes 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 GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyFord's lawyer: Hearing doesn't appear to be designed for 'fair', 'respectful' treatment GOP opens door to holding Kavanaugh committee vote this week Press: Judge Kavanaugh must withdraw MORE (Iowa) and Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynFord's lawyer: Hearing doesn't appear to be designed for 'fair', 'respectful' treatment GOP opens door to holding Kavanaugh committee vote this week GOP senator accuses Dems of ‘character assassination’ on Kavanaugh 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 GrahamGOP opens door to holding Kavanaugh committee vote this week Press: Judge Kavanaugh must withdraw Kavanaugh: 'I will not be intimidated into withdrawing' MORE (R-S.C.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisTrump assures storm victims in Carolinas: 'We will be there 100 percent' North Carolina governor: We saw ‘significant damage’ in eastern part of state GOP senator on allegation against Kavanaugh: 'Why on Earth' wasn't it discussed earlier? MORE (R-N.C.), James LankfordJames Paul LankfordTrump’s new cyber approach: The best defense is a good offense Conservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Outdated global postal system hurts US manufacturers MORE (R-Okla.), David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonGOP senator accuses Dems of ‘character assassination’ on Kavanaugh Sprint/T-Mobile deal must not allow China to threaten US security GOP senators condemn 'vulgar' messages directed at Collins over Kavanaugh 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 RyanDems fight to protect Mueller amid Rosenstein rumors Jordan wants Rosenstein to testify before House Judiciary Committee Kamala Harris calls for Senate to protect Mueller probe as Rosenstein faces potential dismissal 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.