The White House trial balloon giveth, it taketh away, and then … it hovereth. Yesterday, the White House leaked the possibility that Donald Trump would sign onto a temporary three-year extension on DACA in exchange for three years of border-wall funding. Later, its deputy press secretary denied that Trump would support it when asked about the “three-for-three deal.” Sort of:
“If there were a deal cut and that could be added to the omnibus, we would welcome that. But right now, what was reported as a three-for-three deal is not something the White House would support,” Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told reporters.
Those two statements appear entirely contradictory. If Congress cuts a deal on DACA that was added to the omnibus Trump would welcome it, but … not support it? Criticize it but sign it? It appears to be a case of eating one’s cake and having it too.
House Republicans don’t appear anxious to risk the vote just to have Trump complain about it later. They told The Hill that if Trump wants a deal, he’ll have to support it publicly:
Among congressional Republicans, the idea of a three-year DACA fix in exchange for wall funding was amenable.
“I don’t have a problem with it, as long as it’s something the president wants, as opposed to us trying to force him into doing something,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Ok.), a key appropriator. …
Republicans also expressed frustration with the lack of a clear message from the White House.
“We were watching to see where that would go. There were members here that would be open to that as well, but they’ve already pulled it down,” said a senior Republican source of the White House trial balloon.
While Trump could just stand pat on DACA as the issue goes through the courts, he wants to get at least some of his border-wall funding. He’s not likely to get much in the FY2018 omnibus bill that will come out of Congress next week, and that means waiting even longer on his key campaign pledge. Cutting a temporary deal would make sense in that it doesn’t give up much that courts haven’t already forced Trump to give up in exchange for funding he wouldn’t otherwise be able to get. DACA will continue at least until the Supreme Court finally weighs in on it, and if they find it unconstitutional, it will end immediately while Trump still has his border-wall funding in place.
However, in order to get that deal, Trump will have to give his fellow Republicans enough political cover to provide it, especially this close to the midterm elections. They’re not going to walk the plank just to have Trump saw it off later.
As of yesterday afternoon, few expected Trump to make the push necessary:
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, doesn’t expect any DACA bill to be attached to the omnibus spending package.
“Not that I’m aware of. But I’m not aware of everything,” Cornyn said. “My sense is that the litigation has taken the sense of urgency out of that and so I think we’ve got more time. We have more urgent things to do like keep the government up and running so I wouldn’t think we have to complicate it unnecessarily.”
“I could be completely wrong, but I don’t expect to see DACA language in it at all,” he continued, adding he hasn’t heard anything from the White House about including a DACA bill in the spending package.
Sen. James Lankford, who has worked for on legislation to address the future of the DACA program, said he was unaware of any discussions on the matter and was informed recently no immigration measures would be attached to the spending bill.
“I’ve heard zero conversation about including anything in the appropriations bills on immigration. I’ve had conversations as recently as Monday of this week … and was told [by Senate leadership] it’s not going to be in the appropriations bill,” the Oklahoma Republican said.
It still could come up in the FY2019 budget, the parameters of which have already been agreed upon by both parties. That’s only a few months away, so this isn’t the last chance. The delay might make it impossible to show much progress on the wall before the 2020 election, though, and the White House has to be worried about that. That might make it worth pushing a short-term deal, or at least sticking their necks out to allow Republicans on Capitol Hill to try for one.