White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. ― Fresh off a State of the Union that much of the media lauded as a call for bipartisanship, President Donald Trump addressed lawmakers here at a GOP retreat and implored them to pass a hardline immigration proposal that Democrats say is already dead on arrival.
“I know that the Senate is planning to bring an immigration bill to the floor in the coming next weeks,” Trump said. “And I am asking today that the framework we submitted” be what senators vote on.
That framework, which Democrats swear can’t pass the Senate, draws from a House bill that would limit family reunification immigration, end the diversity visa lottery program, and authorize billions for the construction of a wall ― all in exchange for providing a legislation solution for the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program that Trump ended but has said he supports.
Trump claimed nearly seven in 10 Americans approve of a bill with those principles, and he argued that the American people were “pleading” for “extra strength” at the border.
Trump said they would either have something that is “fair and equitable and secure, or we’ll have nothing at all.”
“It doesn’t make sense to have nothing at all, because this is something that people want,” he added.
Trump’s tone during the speech alternated between off-the-cuff riffing about how great of a year it had been ― complete with shoutouts to random lawmakers and a story about how he didn’t really care about arctic drilling ― to a prepared speech that made the case for a tougher line on immigration negotiations.
While Trump said he was “extending an open hand” to both parties Tuesday night, it was clearer Thursday what he actually meant. Trump warned that, if Democrats didn’t want to embrace Republican ideas, one strategy for enacting the GOP agenda was to elect more Republicans, so “we won’t have to compromise so much.”
More moderate Republicans senators have been meeting with a group of Senate Democrats in an effort to draft a compromise proposal on DACA. Those negotiations were a key reason Democrats relented during the last shutdown, not wanting to poison the talks and because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) assured lawmakers he intended to bring up a DACA bill with a fair and open amendment process to allow Democrats to shape the bill.
With Trump now pushing for a vote on the White House’s proposal, there are a number of ways McConnell could deliver on both of those priorities. For instance, he could put the White House’s bill up for a vote and demonstrate quite easily that it doesn’t have the votes to pass, while also allowing Democrats to vote on other amendments to shape a final product. But it’s unclear what McConnell will do, or how firm a line the majority leader will draw.
Government funding runs out on Feb. 8, and Democrats don’t have much incentive to continue voting for those spending bills without the assurances they were already given on immigration. On top of those Democratic concerns, Republicans may have trouble passing another government funding bill themselves.
Some Republicans have indicated they want a full-year of defense spending attached to a short-term bill, and conservatives in the House have suggested they won’t support another short-term bill unless the House votes on the hardline immigration bill they support.