McConnell: DACA deal not happening this year

McConnell: DACA deal not happening this year
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters Green New Deal Resolution invites big picture governing ‘Contingency’ spending in 3B budget deal comes under fire MORE (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that Congress will not pass a fix for a key Obama-era immigration program this year despite demands from Democrats and outside groups.

"No, we’ll not be doing DACA this week. That’s a matter to be discussed next year. The president has given us until March to address that issue. We have plenty of time to do that," McConnell told Fox News, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Congress is expected to wrap up its work for the year this week and leave town until January.

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The Trump administration announced earlier this year that it was ending DACA, setting a deadline in March for lawmakers to address the issue.

But progressive Democrats and immigration activists are demanding that lawmakers attach a fix for DACA — which allows immigrants brought into the U.S. as children to work and go to school — to a short-term government funding bill.

Congress has until the end of the day Friday to pass a government funding bill and avoid a shut down. The Senate is expected to offer a short-term bill that would punt the funding fight to January.

McConnell noted that he and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerNational emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration Mandatory E-Verify: The other border wall MORE (D-N.Y.) have been discussing how to keep the government open, predicting they would avoid a shut down.

Schumer sidestepped questions earlier Tuesday when asked if he would vote against a short-term funding bill if it doesn't include an immigration fix.

"I'm hopeful that we won't get to that. I'm hopeful that they'll put something — [a] bipartisan proposal with both [the] DREAM [Act] and border security in the bill," he said, saying negotiators were "coming pretty close to a conclusion" over the issue.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act would provide immigrants brought into the country illegally as children with a path to citizenship.

But Republicans, and the Trump administration, have been adamant they will not link the immigration fight to the year-end funding bill.

Senate Republicans will need to win over at least eight Democratic or independent senators to pass the funding bill, assuming they can hold their own caucus together.

Dozens of House Democrats, and several of their progressive counterparts in the Senate, have threatened to vote against a funding bill without a deal on DACA.

Senators have been locked in talks for weeks about trying to find an agreement that linked DACA to a border security fix.

But members involved with the talks have appeared skeptical they could work out a solution by the end of the year.

"I think it's unrealistic for a couple of reasons — mechanically, it may be difficult to do. We now hear that there is a very strong sentiment against putting this in the year-end bill on the House side ... and I think similarly on the Senate side," Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisDems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters Business, conservative groups slam Trump’s national emergency declaration GOP senator dedicates heart photo to wife from Senate floor for Valentine's Day MORE (R-N.C.) told The Hill last week.