Congress Speeds Toward Shutdown over Dreamers

Rachael Bade and Heather Caygle, Politico, November 21, 2017

Concern is growing in both parties that a clash over the fate of Dreamers will trigger a government shutdown this December.

House conservatives have warned Speaker Paul Ryan against lumping a fix for undocumented immigrants who came to the country as minors into a year-end spending deal. They want him to keep the two issues separate and delay immigration negotiations into 2018 to increase their leverage — which both Ryan and the White House consider reasonable.

But many liberal Democrats have already vowed to withhold votes from the spending bill should it not address Dreamers, putting Democratic leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York in an awkward spot if they don’t go along.

Democrats know Republicans need their votes to fund the government past the current Dec. 8 deadline, and many want Pelosi and Schumer to stand firm against the must-pass bill until leaders save the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

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Pelosi vowed at a news conference earlier this month, “We will not leave here without the DREAM Act passing, with a DACA fix,” adding: “We’re not kicking the can down to March.”

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Some senior GOP sources believe they may have to address DACA before 2018 begins; if the government closes even in part because of Democrats, Republicans fear they’ll get the blame from voters since they control Washington.

GOP leadership is also getting an earful from centrist Republicans who want to strike a deal now. “I want to see it done by the end of the year,” said Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a moderate Republican of Cuban descent who’s trying to bring both sides together. “We don’t want this to spill into next year. No. 1, that means more drama here. It means a lot of worried young people and a lot of anxiety.”

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Democratic leaders are also worried about the potential budget brinkmanship. Pelosi and other top Democrats fear voters would blame them for a government shutdown, which could backfire in the 2018 midterm elections. Democratic leaders have been encouraging their members to hold off on nuclear rhetoric for now.

That’s led some Democrats to walk a linguistic tightrope. More than two dozen members of the congressional Hispanic and Progressive caucuses signed onto an op-ed vowing to vote against a December funding bill if DACA wasn’t addressed by then. But even those lawmakers have furiously pushed back against any notion that they’re advocating for a government shutdown if they don’t get their way. They say the onus is and always has been on Republicans, who control the majority in both chambers and the White House.

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Moderate Republicans, who rarely go against GOP leaders, recently held a news conference calling for Ryan to act on DACA by the end of 2017. Centrists in the Tuesday Group huddled last week with the New Democrat Coalition and agreed to find a bipartisan solution.

At the same time, the Problem Solvers Caucus, another bipartisan group of moderates, is getting ready to drop its own bill to extend DACA in exchange for heightened border security. And one moderate Republican source even suggested centrists could take a harder line against their own leaders if Ryan doesn’t embrace a compromise soon.

But listening to moderates could mean the beginning of the end of Ryan’s speakership. Immigration has long been a toxic issue for Republicans. And conservatives made Ryan promise, when he became speaker, that he would never put an immigration bill on the floor that doesn’t have a majority of the majority.

The kind of solution being advocated by Democrats or even centrist Republicans could incite a riot in the GOP ranks. In exchange for a DACA fix, conservatives want to boost border security, curb “chain migration” and force companies to set up e-verification systems to check that their workers are in the United States legally — proposals most Democrats would oppose.

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