Dems won’t hold omnibus hostage over Dreamers

Dems won’t hold omnibus hostage over Dreamers
© Greg Nash

Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGrassley to administration: You must consult Congress on refugee cap Overnight 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 group wants to lift Medicaid restriction on substance abuse treatment MORE (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 HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDems' confidence swells with midterms fast approaching Trump's Puerto Rico tweets spark backlash Hoyer lays out government reform blueprint MORE (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 TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE.

“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 McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSanders hits Feinstein over Kavanaugh allegations: Now it’s clear why she did nothing for months On The Money: Senate approves 4B spending bill | China imposes new tariffs on billion in US goods | Ross downplays new tariffs: 'Nobody's going to actually notice' McConnell tamps down any talk of Kavanaugh withdrawal MORE (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.