Dreamers-for-wall trade going nowhere in House

A deal to reopen the government by trading border wall funding for immigration benefits for so-called Dreamers doesn’t stand a chance in the House, according to legislators on both sides of the aisle.

House Democrats say they don't trust President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE to keep his end of any bargain, and are wary of negotiating a deal that could benefit those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program while throwing other undocumented immigrants under the bus.

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"Many of us, Democrats and Republicans, want to find a solution to this, and the White House has never been supportive of that," said Rep. Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarPro-business Dem group sees boost in fundraising Left flexes muscle in immigration talks Immigration groups press for pairing Dreamer benefits with border security MORE (D-Calif.), a moderate who worked out a Dreamers-for-wall deal with Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdHere are the eight Republicans who voted with Democrats on the Equality Act House approves anti-LGBT discrimination Equality Act Iraq War vet Ortiz Jones sets up rematch against Hurd in Texas MORE (R-Texas) last summer.

That bill would have granted a path to citizenship to Dreamers both within and outside DACA in exchange for technological and manpower investments in border security, but no wall construction.

The Hurd-Aguilar bill, which lacked the support of GOP leadership, never made it to the floor.

Aguilar ruled out even preliminary cross-aisle negotiations while the partial government shutdown is in effect.

"If Republicans want to have conversations, we're always happy to, and you know that I will continue to have conversations with Republicans about a long-term solution to this. But we can't negotiate while the government is shut down, period," he said.

Meanwhile, the GOP refuses to join in government spending talks without some amount of wall funding on the table.

"There is no Democrat that is willing to give any money for a border barrier initiative, any substantial other than a dollar, for a border barrier initiative, so why have the discussion?" asked Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsAmash storm hits Capitol Hill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - After GOP infighting, Trump Jr. agrees to testify again On The Money: House chairman issues subpoenas for Trump's tax returns | Trump touts trade talks as China, US fail to reach deal | Five things to know about Trump's trade war with China | GOP offers support for Trump on tariffs MORE (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and a close ally of President Trump.

About a quarter of the federal government has been shut down since Dec. 22, as Trump has demanded $5.7 billion for construction of barriers along the border, and Democrats in Congress have refused to grant it.

GOP senators, most recently Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget WANTED: A Republican with courage Companies warn Trump trade war is about to hit consumers MORE (Ohio) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranOn The Money: Judge upholds House subpoena for Trump financial records | Trump vows to appeal ruling by 'Obama-appointed judge' | Canada, Mexico lift retaliatory tariffs on US | IRS audit rate falls GOP senator calls for resolution of trade dispute: 'Farmers and ranchers are hurting' Frustrated GOP senators want answers from Trump on Iran MORE (Kan.), have proposed measures similar to the Hurd-Aguilar compromise in an effort to end the shutdown, which on Saturday became the longest in modern U.S. history.

But Democrats, fresh off a big electoral win in November, say their base won't accept such a deal now.

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"Every time that we've been [down this road], people on the ground they get their hopes up and they think that maybe there's an answer there, but this time people are staying pretty firm," said Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalDem rep: You can't be a Democrat if you don't support abortion, LGBTQ rights Dems eye big infrastructure package, with or without Trump Dems struggle to make Trump bend on probes MORE (D-Wash.), an immigrant rights activist and co-chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. 

"They do not trust this president, they do not think that there's a real deal to be had, number one, and number two, they know that if there was a deal, because of everything he's done and everything he's said, that it would include some really terrible things," she added.

And the shutdown itself has become a core dividing issue, beyond debate over the wall itself.

"At this point, the tactic they're using is so illegitimate we wouldn't use it for anything they're asking," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezSteve Bullock puts Citizens United decision at center of presidential push Fix the climate with smaller families Dem Sen. Markey faces potential primary challenge in Massachusetts MORE (D-N.Y.), a freshman lawmaker and rising progressive star.

"Just the idea that they're holding people's paychecks hostage and throwing a tantrum, I don't care if they wanted an ice cream cone, we're not going to give it to them," she said.

Republicans, on the other hand, view Democratic leadership as hypocritical for refusing to grant Trump's border wall request, which they see as similar to past bipartisan border security bills.

"In the scope of things, we're not talking about a big chunk of money. We're talking about concepts that even the folks that are now saying it's a moral issue to not do, they've supported it in writing, and with votes, and with signing up to discharge petitions," said Rep. Mario Diaz-BalartMario Rafael Diaz-BalartHere are the eight Republicans who voted with Democrats on the Equality Act House approves anti-LGBT discrimination Equality Act Thirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill MORE (R-Fla.), who's played a key role in previous immigration reform negotiations.

Centrist Republicans are frustrated that negotiations have broken down.

Rep. Glenn ThompsonGlenn (G.T.) W. ThompsonDreamers-for-wall trade going nowhere in House Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg denies selling 'anyone's data' | UK Parliament releases more Facebook docs | Canada reportedly arrests Huawei CFO | Fallout from Marriott hack | Cuba rolls out internet service for mobile users Bipartisan bill would create grant program promoting cybersecurity education MORE (R-Pa.), who early on in last year's border-for-Dreamers negotiations supported a bipartisan deal, said the negotiators are blowing an opportunity.

"These parties that are involved, and it really seems like it boils down to the House and the Senate Democratic leadership and the president — this is an opportunity I think for Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer that they're just blowing," said Thompson.

"I think there's all kinds of opportunities here for things ... even just focused and related to immigration, that you could put together," he added.

Republicans have said they’re unwilling to back a bill to reopen the government that doesn’t have the support of Trump, who has indicated he’ll veto anything without wall funding included.

"Can you find any Democrat in leadership that's willing to talk about any significant amount of money for a wall? Period. Whether DACA is included or not. When you find them, then we'll have a discussion about it," Meadows said.

And the White House has pulled away from the idea of trying to intertwine Dreamers and the wall.

Vice President Pence Thursday said the administration won't consider a DACA-for-wall deal, as administration officials believe the Obama-era program won't survive a challenge before the Supreme Court, though the constitutionality of DACA has so far not been successfully challenged in court.

Andrew Hanen, a South Texas judge who in 2015 ruled against a DACA expansion as well as a partner program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), had the opportunity to rule against DACA as a whole in August, but refused to do so.

Trump rescinded DACA in September 2017 and gave Congress six months to enact replacement legislation. Congress failed to come to an agreement, but Trump's order was swiftly challenged in the courts, and a 9th Circuit decision ultimately forced the Department of Homeland Security to continue issuing DACA benefits to new applicants.

Given DACA's success in court so far, some Democrats are flummoxed by the administration's bullish attitude toward a favorable judicial resolution.

"Maybe they realized that people weren't going to take a deal, and so to get involved in a big lengthy negotiation around some ephemeral deal that never actually turns out to be something that Democrats could accept," said Jayapal.

Some Republicans are dismayed that the administration would seek a court victory rather than a legislative agreement.

"I don't agree with that perspective, even though I'm a huge friend and fan of the vice president. I'm tired of the courts dictating public policy. It's the legislative branch, let's exercise our responsibilities on this," said Thompson.

Ocasio-Cortez said "the administration is grasping at straws." 

"I don't know if it's because they're trying to cover for the fact that they can't even offer that — we're going to reject it. We're not going to exchange DACA for a wall. We're not going to save one part of a family to expend another part. We're not going to separate families. They know we're not going to separate families, they know we're not going to tolerate that deal and right now they're just grasping for an excuse to not offer it because they know we're going to reject it," she said.