Trump, midterm pressures complicate immigration fight

Trump, midterm pressures complicate immigration fight

Election year politics and President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump's top adviser on Asia to serve as deputy national security adviser United Auto Workers strike against GM poised to head into eighth day Trump doubles down on call to investigate Biden after whistleblower complaint: 'That's the real story' MORE’s unpredictability are making an already uphill climb to produce immigration legislation that much more difficult in both the House and the Senate.

In the lower chamber, Republicans will return to Washington this week to try once again to pass a compromise immigration measure worked out by conservative and centrist Republicans.

Votes on the bill were postponed twice last week, and Trump has tweeted that the GOP is wasting its time since even if the measure is approved by the House, it’s seen as having no chance in the Senate.

But House Republicans haven’t given up on their effort, despite the signal from Trump that it is futile.

In the Senate, lawmakers are set to hold preliminary talks Monday to discuss a narrow bill focused on resolving family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border that were sparked by Trump's "zero tolerance" immigration policy.

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While Trump has signed an executive order ending the separations, which had launched a political storm Democrats hope to use against the GOP this fall, the White House has said it still wants legislation to resolve the matter.

Yet Trump over the weekend signaled opposition to Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump walks tightrope on gun control State Department's top arms control official leaving Sanders NASA plan is definitely Earth first MORE’s (R-Texas) push to expand the number of judges set to process people caught illegally crossing the border.

Cruz and Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFeinstein calls on Justice to push for release of Trump whistleblower report Senate Judiciary Committee requests consultation with admin on refugee admissions Trump reignites court fight with Ninth Circuit pick MORE (D-Calif.) are both expected to play key roles in any Senate talks this week, and both are up for reelection.

And while Trump and Cruz appear to differ on some matters of policy on the border crisis, they have both suggested that they believe Democrats are ready to play politics on the issue.

“The question is, do congressional Democrats want to actually solve the problem or do they want an issue to campaign on in November?” Cruz, who will face Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) in November, told reporters last week.

Cruz and O’Rourke have held dueling campaign events along the border. Cruz visited a detention center with Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynTrump walks tightrope on gun control DC statehood push faces long odds despite record support Trump judicial picks face rare GOP opposition MORE (R-Texas) on Friday, and the following day O’Rourke led a delegation to a temporary tent city for detained children.

Cruz has introduced a narrow bill that would let migrant families who declare asylum be detained together. Meanwhile, Feinstein’s legislation, which is backed by the entire Democratic caucus, would broadly let families detained along the border stay together with the “presumption” that it is not in their best interest to be detained.

Support for immigration bills has broken down on partisan lines, and the divide is spilling over into Senate campaigns, where 10 Democrats are up for reelection in states Trump won in 2016.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is looking to unseat Democratic Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinToomey on gun reform: 'Beto O'Rourke is not helping' Trump walks tightrope on gun control O'Rourke gun confiscation talk alarms Democrats MORE (D-W.Va.), said Manchin is joining with “liberals in Washington to reinstate the dangerous catch-and-release, open-border policies of Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaKrystal Ball tears into 'Never Trump' Republicans Sanders campaign announces it contacted over 1 million Iowa voters Iowa Steak Fry to draw record crowds for Democrats MORE and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats go all out to court young voters for 2020 Pelosi: Whistleblower complaint 'must be addressed immediately' Election meddling has become the new normal of US diplomacy MORE.”

Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillEx-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity Ocasio-Cortez blasts NYT editor for suggesting Tlaib, Omar aren't representative of Midwest Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (Mo.) criticized her Republican opponent, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, for supporting “family separation” after he blamed Democrats for the current immigration standoff.

In the House, some of the most vulnerable Republicans are backing the compromise bill, including Reps. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloPelosi: GOP retirements indicate they'll be in the minority, with Democrat in the White House The Hill's Morning Report - Congress returns: What to expect Wave of GOP retirements threatens 2020 comeback MORE (Fla.) and Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamEx-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm Ex-GOP Rep. Denham heads to lobbying firm Crazy California an outlier? No, we are the canary in the coal mine MORE (Calif.), who are both in races seen as toss-ups this fall.

Images and audio of children separated from their parents is likely to be heard in campaign ads as Democrats seek to win over voters in suburban districts.

Yet in some red states won by Trump, it’s entirely possible the issue could play to the president’s and GOP’s favor.

Two-thirds of Americans oppose separating families at the border, according to a CNN poll released last week. But just like on Capitol Hill, there are partisan divides among the electorate: 58 percent of Republicans support the Trump administration's policy, compared to 92 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents who oppose it.

Separately, a Pew Research Center survey found that voters say Democrats do a better job of handling immigration compared to Republicans, by a margin of 48 percent to 34 percent.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTrump walks tightrope on gun control Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes Trump: 'Great to see' Pelosi plan to lower drug prices MORE (R-Iowa) recently questioned if Democrats are using the migrant families as a “political football” against Trump, while Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonZuckerberg woos Washington critics during visit Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers to discuss 'future internet regulation' 2020 Democrats raise alarm about China's intellectual property theft MORE (R-Ark.), one of Trump’s closest allies in Congress, took aim at Democrats in a fundraising email for the Senate GOP campaign arm, saying they are “scheming to open our borders to illegal immigrants.”

Meanwhile, months of setbacks in immigration negotiations and Trump’s rhetoric have hardened distrust. Senators in both parties blame the administration for sinking a centrist immigration bill back in February.

“He doesn’t want to solve the problem if it means losing his base,” said Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Walmart to stop selling e-cigarettes | Senators press FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately | House panel tees up e-cig hearing for next week Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts Bipartisan group of senators urges FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately MORE (D-Ill.). “And he has his base now foaming at the mouth over the notion of immigrants coming into America.”

Trump’s shifting positions are complicating, and likely dooming, any chance of success for a broader compromise bill that would address border security, change legal immigration and address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Last week, he undercut a House GOP immigration bill when tweeted: “Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November. Dems are just playing games, have no intention of doing anything to solves this decades old problem. We can pass great legislation after the Red Wave!”

Trump’s handling of the House immigration debate and the family separation fight has rankled some House Republicans, where dozens of members are running in states that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. The president's focus on immigration also comes as Republicans want to focus on the economy in their midterm messaging.

“What I would like is for the president to have the same message,” Rep. Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanBottom Line Koch political arm endorses Colorado Sen. Gardner 20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform MORE (R-Colo.), who is facing a difficult reelection bid told CNN after the president's tweet. “I get that it's tough in the Senate … but that is no reason not to try.”

House GOP leaders are still planning to move ahead with their compromise measure, after a more conservative alternative from Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteUSCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Immigrant advocacy groups shouldn't be opposing Trump's raids Top Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview MORE (R-Va.) failed to garner 218 votes last week.

But conservatives have blasted the compromise bill, warning it will alienate voters as Republicans are already locked in a heated battle for control of the House in November.

Cruz told the online network CRTV that he has begged House leadership not to vote on immigration, saying it would be “colossally stupid.”

“I have practically dropped to my knees and said, 'For the love of God, don’t go down this path,' " Cruz said. "It is difficult to think of a path better designed to keep 3 to 5 million conservatives home in November than to pass a big amnesty plan right before the election."

He added that if moderates succeed, it is the “single step most likely to lose not only the House but the Senate.”