White House looking for a deal with Senate on DREAMers

White House chief of staff John Kelly met with about a dozen senators yesterday to begin laying the groundwork for a compromise that would keep 800,000 children of illegal aliens from being at risk to be deported.

The potential deal means that the continuing resolution to keep the government funded through January 19 will be addressed without the threat of a government shutdown by Democrats over the DREAMer issue.  Some Democrats were insisting that the immigration issue be resolved at the same time that a government funding measure was voted on.

But it appears that with a commitment from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold a cloture vote in mid-January on DREAMers, a shutdown has probably been averted.


At the Tuesday meeting, Kelly and other administration officials went into detail about how much of the southern border is currently fenced and how much more the White House would want in exchange for a DACA deal, according to people who attended.

Senators also pressed the White House on other immigration demands, such as an overhaul of the nation's asylum system or a change in policy toward unaccompanied minors who are apprehended at the southern border, and whether they needed to be included in the current DACA talks.

"Which of those policy items, or immigration law changes, do we need to make as part of this and what can wait for something else?" Flake said, summing up the questions from senators. "There's a lot of nice things we need to do as part of broader comprehensive reform, but we need to have a bill in January and we need to know what has to be in it and what the administration will support."

The bipartisan group of senators – Flake and Durbin, Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) – has discussed a legalization plan that would marry the DREAM Act, drafted by Durbin and Graham, with a more conservative proposal for Dreamers written by Tillis and Lankford, Flake said.

Those seven senators attended Tuesday's meeting with Kelly, as did Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia.

With the Christmas and New Year's holidays, plus the start of a new congressional term on January 3, it appears that there is precious little time to get a comprehensive measure passed by mid-January.  That's why it's likely that only the border wall and the DACA extension will be negotiated.

Don't look for Democrats to acknowledge a "wall" at all.  It will be referred to as "enhanced border security."  Dems have pledged not to fund the wall and their liberal base will try and hold them to that.

Republicans' commitment to taking up a DACA deal next month won't spare Democrats the fury of liberal groups that have demanded that any spending bill this year include a solution for Dreamers.

Democratic leaders have signaled that they won't risk a government shutdown this month to secure relief for the Dreamers, though some lawmakers have vowed to withhold their votes for any must-pass funding measure without an immigration fix.

Durbin, the influential second-ranking Senate Democrat, is firmly in the camp of senators who won't vote for a spending bill without help for Dreamers. That group also includes liberal Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Durbin was asked by reporters Tuesday if there was a divide between him and Schumer over where to draw the line on the issue, and acknowledged that there "may be."

Republican nose-counters on the government funding bill believe that the number of Democrats who will oppose the spending bill won't be enough to derail it.  You can count on up to half a dozen Republican senators to vote against the continuing resolution, which leaves little margin for error.  Trump may have to twist a few Republican arms to prevent the shutdown.

But with the promise to address the measure in January, some of those Democrats who want the issue resolved before the new year may agree to shelve their protest.  They realize that voters will take a dim view of the Democratic Party if they shut down the government over an issue that will be resolved before Trump's March deadline.

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