Dems won’t hold omnibus hostage over Dreamers
Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) said Thursday that he does not expect Democrats will insist on attaching immigration reform to the fiscal year 2018 spending omnibus, lowering the odds of another government shutdown.
Durbin said Congress is looking forward to finally passing the spending package, which comes nearly six months into the fiscal year, after weeks of acrimonious disagreement over spending levels, immigration, and a variety of conservative policy riders.
A stopgap spending measure is due to expire on March 23, but Democrats don’t have much appetite for using it as leverage to help an estimated 800,000 immigrants who came to the country illegally as children and now face deportation.
“We have to look for another opportunity,” Durbin said Thursday.
He said lawmakers are tired over the budget stalemate, which has put federal agencies in limbo for months.
“I think we’re kind of focused on finally getting the budget of this country passed,” he said.
Durbin’s remarks come after Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) signaled Tuesday that Democrats wouldn’t demand Dreamer protections as a condition for passing the spending deal.
Durbin blamed the lack of momentum behind an immigration fix to help Dreamers on President Trump.
“There’s no indication that President Trump wants to do anything and absent his support Republicans don’t want to do anything and they’re in the majority,” he said.
Durbin opposed a stopgap spending measure in December because it did not include language to protect young immigrants from deportation and later said he would not support spending bills that failed to address their plight.
Most of the Senate Democratic caucus rallied behind that position, leading to a standoff and a three-day government shutdown in January.
Durbin and other Democrats voted to reopen the government after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised to debate immigration on the Senate floor in February and allow for an open amendment process.
That debate, however, failed to produce a result as a bipartisan proposal to create a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants in exchange for $25 billion in new border security funding fell six votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.
A proposal favored by Trump to give Dreamers a pathway to citizenship, spend $25 billion on border security, reduce the weighting of family relationships in granting green cards and eliminate the visa lottery was soundly defeated. Sixty senators voted against that proposal.