White House: No DACA deal until after shutdown ends

Senate Republicans and the White House have made it clear to the Democrats that there will be no deal to legalize the hundreds of thousands of children of illegal aliens in the DACA program until a government funding measure is passed.

The House passed a short term funding deal on Friday that will keep the government operating until February 16. The deal did not include DACA legislation and both Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell say that the House bill must form the basis of any Senate legislation.


“I think it’s more difficult to get any agreement on DACA in a shutdown,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy heading into a meeting with GOP leaders Saturday. He was referring to the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, shielding hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children from deportation, known as Dreamers.

White House Legislative Director Marc Short, who attended a closed-door meeting of House Republicans, echoed that stance.

"I think the administration's position is that as soon as they reopen the government, we'll resume negotiations on DACA," Short told reporters. "It's hard to negotiate on that when they're keeping our border agents unpaid, our troops unpaid, not paying for American services."

Trump, who canceled a weekend trip to Florida to celebrate his first anniversary in office, spoke with Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Saturday morning, aides said.

House Republicans scoffed at a tentative framework to reopen the government being discussed by a bipartisan group of senators.

Under the proposal — conceived by GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake — Senate Democrats would agree to re-open the government and fund agencies until Feb. 8. In exchange, they would secure a vote on a bipartisan Dreamers bill. While McConnell signaled that he might go along, Senate Democrats also wanted a commitment from Ryan to include the bill in must-pass legislation in the House.

But McConnell would not agree to that demand, senators said, because he cannot bind the House to a Senate deal. Graham and Flake have started meeting quietly with well over a dozen fellow senators, both Democrats and Republicans, to hammer out a compromise.

"My hope is that this bipartisan group will go back to the leaders of both parties and try to find a way to move forward," Graham said as he left Saturday's meeting, held in the office of Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

But all along, Ryan has insisted the Senate needs to approve the House bill to fund the government until Feb. 16 as a starting point for any broader agreement.

Trump never wanted DACA legislation in the funding bill in the first place. Then, when he agreed to consider it, he upped the ante by demanding immigration enforcement money - including funding for the wall - to be included with any DACA amendments. When Democrats balked, he refused to negotiate further, leaving Democrats high and dry.

In the end, it appears that Trump will get a funding bill minus DACA, and probably a separate bill that includes wall funding as well as other immigration enforcement measures in exchange for legalizing DREAMers. This is what the president wanted in the first place. 

Meanwhile, the Democrats' strategy to hold the government hostage for DACA will have failed. They may get a promise for a vote before the March 6 deadline that will end DACA, but as a political ploy, their shutdown strategy is going nowhere.

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