Trump, midterm pressures complicate immigration fight

Trump, midterm pressures complicate immigration fight

Election year politics and President TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points 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 CruzGOP deeply divided over Trump's social media crackdown Hillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump tweet for 'glorifying violence' | Cruz calls for criminal investigation into Twitter over alleged sanctions violations | Senators urge FTC to investigate TikTok child privacy issues Cruz calls for criminal investigation into Twitter over alleged Iranian sanction violations 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 FeinsteinGraham announces hearing on police use of force after George Floyd killing Frustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Major space launch today; Trump feuds with Twitter 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 CornynGOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas Castro, Warren, Harris to speak at Texas Democratic virtual convention Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight 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) ManchinDemocratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight Stakes high for Collins in coronavirus relief standoff The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Surgeon General stresses need to invest much more in public health infrastructure, during and after COVID-19; Fauci hopeful vaccine could be deployed in December 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 ObamaThe battle of two Cubas Obama on the death of George Floyd: 'This shouldn't be "normal" in 2020 America' Democrats gear up to hit GOP senators on DACA MORE and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump campaign launches Asian Pacific Americans coalition Van Jones: A 'white, liberal Hillary Clinton supporter' can pose a greater threat to black Americans than the KKK Taylor Swift slams Trump tweet: 'You have the nerve to feign moral superiority before threatening violence?' MORE.”

Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMissouri county issues travel advisory for Lake of the Ozarks after Memorial Day parties Senate faces protracted floor fight over judges amid pandemic safety concerns Amash on eyeing presidential bid: 'Millions of Americans' want someone other than Trump, Biden 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 CurbeloTrump, GOP go all-in on anti-China strategy Republicans can't exploit the left's climate extremism without a better idea Progressive Latino group launches first incumbent protection campaign MORE (Fla.) and Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamBottom line Lobbying world Harder advances in race to keep California House seat 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 GrassleyExpanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support Grassley, Leahy urge Roberts to permanently air Supreme Court arguments Democrats broaden probe into firing of State Department watchdog MORE (R-Iowa) recently questioned if Democrats are using the migrant families as a “political football” against Trump, while Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonDemocrats call on FTC to investigate allegations of TikTok child privacy violations GOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas Chinese official accuses US of 'pushing our two countries to the brink of a new Cold War' 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 DurbinFrustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  Senate Democrat introduces bill to protect food supply Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight 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.”