2020 politics make an immigration deal unlikely in lame-duck

2020 politics make an immigration deal unlikely in lame-duck
© Stefani Reynolds

Immigration was a good issue for Senate Republicans in the midterm elections, but Democrats see it as a winner for them in 2020 and have little desire to negotiate on the issue in the lame-duck session or next year.

The offer that Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTop Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Lawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Trump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US MORE (N.Y.) proffered at the start of this year — full funding for the border wall in exchange for reauthorization of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects immigrants who came to the country illegally as children — is no longer on the table.

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Democrats say they are content to take the issue into 2020, when Democratic voters are projected to turn out in larger numbers and two pivotal Senate races will be fought in states with large Hispanic populations: Arizona and Colorado.

“One, it will continue to help with suburban women. Number two, it will mobilize Latino voters,” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster. “The third thing [is], particularly if Democrats lean into it, immigration can be a huge liability [for Republicans].

“There gets to be a point where voters are really frustrated that all you do is divide people without proposing any workable solutions,” she added. “The presidential election allows for a real debate on this and in that debate [Democrats] will have the popular side of the issues.”

Meanwhile, Republicans are hoping to negotiate an agreement on border security that President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' MORE could accept, even if it falls short of his ambition to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

They’re waiting with anxiety to see where Trump comes down on the issue of border security and whether he could sign a year-end spending deal that doesn’t provide for an actual wall. Trump said he would wait until after the election to decide whether to threaten a government shutdown to force the Democrats’ hand on the border wall.

Asked last week whether he would pursue a shutdown strategy, Trump replied, “Not necessarily.” But on the campaign trail this year, Trump repeatedly mentioned the wall and how it will be built.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch Funding a strong defense of our nation's democratic process can't wait The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants MORE (R-Ky.) told reporters last week that he would pursue funding for a border wall, though tried to manage expectations by reminding the media that he would need Democratic buy-in.

Schumer says he’s not very interested in negotiating a deal that would give Trump the funding he wants for the wall in exchange for reauthorization of DACA, something that GOP senators thought was possible before the election.

“The president is a very poor negotiator on those issues. He makes agreements and he backs off. So we’re sort of dubious of sitting down with the president and making that kind of exchange when twice he’s shaken hands and backed off,” Schumer said last week.

A Senate Democratic aide noted that there’s less incentive for Democrats to agree to funding Trump’s border wall in the December lame-duck session now that they have captured control of the House and will have more leverage on immigration next year.

Democratic lawmakers, however, haven’t yet had a chance to gather in Washington to discuss their strategy moving forward.

House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump telling aides to look at potential spending cuts if he wins reelection: report Budget talks between White House, Pelosi spill into weekend Trump says he won't watch Mueller testimony MORE (Calif.), who is likely to become the Speaker again next year, is already under pressure to do something on “Dreamers.”

Rep. Dina TitusAlice (Dina) Costandina TitusHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Key endorsements: A who's who in early states Acting FAA chief defends agency's Boeing 737 Max safety certification MORE (D-Nev.) told The New York Times recently that she is distressed by her party’s game plan: “What Pelosi says is going to be the Democratic agenda is the exact same agenda we had after the 2006 election. The public cares about issues like gun violence and protecting Dreamers — those should be our first two bills. We don’t seem to have a new agenda.”

Pro-immigrant advocacy groups are skeptical of working out anything with Trump anytime soon.

“There’s certainly an effort to try to get the Dream Act passed, but I think Schumer is probably right. I don’t think that Trump is ready to do a clean DREAM bill and I don’t think the compromise Schumer initially offered is still on the table,” said Brent Wilkes, the former executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens and president of Wilkes Strategies.

The Dream Act would protect immigrants who came to the country illegally as children from deportation if they meet certain requirements.

“I don’t think we’ll be seeing a compromise because, primarily, I don’t see the president being reasonable. He’s going to be demanding his wall funding and may even try to shut down the government over that,” he added. “From where we sit today, it doesn’t look good.”

Wilkes said there’s no reason to compromise with Trump over the wall during the lame-duck when they can use control of the House next year to get him to agree to a DACA fix.

“A shutdown never helps the party that causes it,” he said, discounting Trump’s leverage.

Democrats were more eager to cut a deal on DACA and the border wall before the 2018 midterm elections, when they had to defend five vulnerable incumbents running in states that Trump won by double digits.

The president traveled around the country in the week before Election Day, hitting red-state Democrats such as Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Feds allow campaigns to accept discounted cybersecurity services GOP frets over nightmare scenario for Senate primaries MORE (Mo.) and Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand GOP frets over nightmare scenario for Senate primaries McConnell's Democratic challenger McGrath backtracks on Kavanaugh comments MORE (Ind.) hard on border security.

“They want these caravans full of illegal aliens coming into our country, overwhelming your schools, depleting your resources and endangering your communities,” Trump told a crowd in Indianapolis a few days before the election.

McCaskill, Donnelly and Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand McConnell's Democratic challenger McGrath backtracks on Kavanaugh comments McConnell's Democratic challenger says she likely would have voted for Kavanaugh MORE (D-N.D.) ended up losing.

Now that they face more favorable electoral terrain in 2020, Democrats see less political benefit in cutting a deal with Trump giving him a border wall.

Four presidential campaign battlegrounds have large Hispanic populations: Arizona, Nevada, Florida and Colorado.

And Senate Democrats will try to capture two Republican seats in those states: Arizona, which will host a special election in 2020 to fill the seat left by the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMichelle Obama weighs in on Trump, 'Squad' feud: 'Not my America or your America. It's our America' Meghan McCain shares story of miscarriage Media cried wolf: Calling every Republican a racist lost its bite MORE (R), and Colorado.

Polls from earlier this year showed a large majority of Americans supported maintaining DACA, which Trump rescinded in September of 2017.

The status of the program is now in the midst of a legal battle, and the government continued to accept DACA renewal applications after a federal judge in the Northern District of California issued an injunction against the program’s termination.

Lake said Trump “definitely would benefit” from striking a deal to reimplement DACA but questioned whether he would want to do it.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP rattled by Trump rally GOP wants commitment that Trump will sign budget deal Poll: McConnell is most unpopular senator MORE (S.D.), the third-ranking Senate GOP leader, said Tuesday he is hopeful of a border wall deal but said he would need to check in with Democratic colleagues.

“It would be nice if we get a budget deal that includes wall funding,” he said. “We’ll see what the traffic will bear when we get into the discussion. We have to do a budget to wrap up the year and some other cats