Immigration Tensions Roil Congress as Shutdown Looms

18 January, 2018, 14:05 | Author: Roderick Gutierrez
  • Supporters of US President Donald Trump hold signs near his Mar-a Lago resort in West Palm Beach Florida

The White House expressed its support for a short-term spending bill proposed by House Republicans, in a bid to avoid a government shutdown by Friday if the US Congress fail to pass a funding bill for the federal government. Trump reportedly referred to African nations and Haiti as "shithole countries" in a meeting with lawmakers last week.

The House GOP unveiled legislation Tuesday night that would authorize government funding for another four weeks, while suspending several taxes that fund Obamacare and extending the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years.

And with talks about a bipartisan budget and immigration deal on the rocks, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are preparing a fourth short-term spending measure to buy more time to negotiate.

"Well, at the risk of being repetitious, I'm looking for something that President Trump supports", McConnell told reporters.

Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program a year ago, throwing the so-called Dreamers' future into limbo.

"But overall, it's a deal we can probably support", he said.

But White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly said in a Fox News interview Wednesday evening that it looked like leaders would be able to avert a shutdown.

Blaming the Democrats isn't going to work this time, and mainstream GOP leaders know it.

"He (Trump) is anxious that Democrats' unwillingness to actually put country ahead of their party is what's stalling things from moving forward, whether it's the budget or whether it's a deal on DACA", Sanders said.

That means the odds of a shutdown starting at the end of the day Friday are going down, though not yet approaching zero.

House GOP leaders planned to count the bill's supporters on Wednesday before a possible floor vote later this week.

Inside the Democrats' meeting, a handful of senators stood to say they would vote against a continuing resolution and another one or two said they were unsure, but none said they would vote for it, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters afterward.

Congress is still struggling to reach agreement on two spending deals: a two-year package to lift tough caps on domestic and military spending; and the 12 annual government spending bills for the fiscal year that began October 1, 2017. Despite the Republican majority in Congress, nine votes are needed from Senate Democrats in order to pass a solution.

The 16 Democrats who voted for the last stopgap bill to keep the government funded could be a good starting point to predict the outcome this week.

Sharry said he was pleased that the deal would provide relief to dreamers, their parents and those with temporary protected status but unhappy that it includes funding for Trump's "stupid wall", prevents dreamers from petitioning to sponsor their parents for green cards, and curbs family-based immigration and the diversity visa program.

Doug Jones and Tina Smith weren't in the Senate for the last vote in December, but they're likely to support another short-term funding bill to avoid shutting down the federal government.

"I think that the Freedom Caucus has always been willing to take the hard votes when they believe that they're speaking for millions of Americans who feel like Washington, D.C., has forgotten them", Mr. Meadows said.

Schumer said Wednesday there is broad agreement within his party to oppose any deal that does not include DACA and CHIP.

Yet if Ryan caves to Meadows's demand for a vote on what is essentially Trump's immigration policy, he may be sabotaging any chance of a bipartisan immigration deal, which has to happen before the spending crisis is finally resolved (i.e., when the final stopgap bill expires next month).

Sanders put the blame on Senate Democrats if the government is shut down, due to their insistence on a bill to fix DACA.

The three former homeland security secretaries who wrote Congress this month - Jeh Johnson and Janet Napolitano, who served under Obama, and Michael Chertoff, who served under George W. Bush - made a strong case for reviving protections for Dreamers. If they can not agree, the government would shut down at midnight Friday for the first time since 2013.


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