DACA deal or no deal?

Con­fu­sion reigns on the de­tails as Trump scram­bles po­lit­i­cal al­liances

Houston Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - By Bill Lam­brecht and Kevin Diaz

WASH­ING­TON — President Don­ald Trump ap­peared ready to fol­low through on mak­ing a deal with Demo­cratic lead­ers in Con­gress to pro­tect hun­dreds of thou­sands of un­doc­u­mented “Dream­ers” from de­por­ta­tion de­spite scorch­ing blow­back Thurs­day from his base of sup­port­ers.

Amid with­er­ing crit­i­cism from im­mi­gra­tion hawks — in­clud­ing an “Amnesty Don” la­bel plas­tered on the front of con­ser­va­tive Bre­it­bart News — Trump told re­porters while vis­it­ing Florida that “ev­ery­body’s on board. … We’re talking about tak­ing care of peo­ple, peo­ple who were brought here, peo­ple who’ve done a good job.”

But con­fu­sion reigned as to ex­actly what the deal is. The president seemed to con­tra­dict him­self af­ter as­sert­ing in an early morn­ing Twit­ter post that “no deal was made last night on DACA” at a White House din­ner that in­cluded Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

But be­fore leav­ing for Florida, Trump told re­porters that “we’re work­ing on DACA.” He added, “The wall will come later,” seem­ingly re­mov­ing a po­ten­tial ob­sta­cle to a leg­isla­tive deal.

He also had a warn­ing for Democrats: “If the Democrats aren’t go­ing to ap­prove it (money for the bor­der wall), then we’re not go­ing to do what they

want,” he said, adding, “DACA now and the wall very soon, but the wall will hap­pen.”

In the fog of the morn­ing af­ter the White House din­ner, im­mi­gra­tion hawks like U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz were hold­ing their fire.

“We’ll see what the sub­stance and pol­icy is,” he said. “There have been con­flict­ing re­ports about the meet­ing, and what mat­ters is the sub­stance and pol­icy.”

But it ap­peared that few of those all-im­por­tant pol­icy de­tails would emerge soon, even as His­panic lead­ers held a rally in front of the White House, say­ing they were buoyed by ap­par­ent mo­men­tum to­ward pass­ing the Dream Act, leg­is­la­tion that could pro­tect the nearly 800,000 young im­mi­grants in jeop­ardy af­ter Trump or­dered an end to the Obama-era De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram.

De­spite Trump’s as­sur­ances, Repub­li­cans chafed at the news of Trump work­ing once more with Democrats af­ter the president and Demo­cratic lead­ers agreed last week on a deal to in­crease the debt ceil­ing and fund the gov­ern­ment into De­cem­ber.

Some vowed that Trump would pay a steep po­lit­i­cal price for any com­pro­mise on so-called Dream­ers, par­tic­u­larly if it comes be­fore any hard guar­an­tees on a bor­der wall.

“I think some­thing is go­ing to have to be re­versed here with this president’s pol­icy or it will just blow up his base,” hard-right U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, told CNN. “I mean, this was a straight-up prom­ise all the way through his cam­paign.”

‘What’s go­ing on here?’

U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, summed up con­ser­va­tives’ mount­ing frus­tra­tions in an in­ter­view with Fox Busi­ness’ Lou Dobbs.

“We do have a lot of peo­ple who don’t want one (a wall). We were just vot­ing in the House and re­ally, Lou, I was just sit­ting there, we had 23 votes and most of the Demo­cratic amend­ments to the ap­pro­pri­a­tion bill passed. And, it seemed most of the Repub­li­cans’ (amend­ments) did not.”

Gohmert con­tin­ued, “I’m ask­ing peo­ple around me, what’s go­ing on here? Is this some par­al­lel uni­verse? We are sup­posed to be the ma­jor­ity and sup­posed to be get­ting these things done. We have got to get a wall done. It doesn’t have to be ev­ery­where, but we have got to get that done. Some of us are not giv­ing up.”

Trump also sought to re­as­sure his con­ser­va­tive base that let­ting Dream­ers stay does not mean “amnesty” or a path to cit­i­zen­ship.

Re­spond­ing to a shouted ques­tion by a re­porter Thurs­day about whether he fa­vors amnesty, Trump shouted back: “The word is DACA.”

The ex­change il­lus­trated the tricky po­lit­i­cal stakes emerg­ing from the haze of con­flict­ing re­ports about Trump’s con­ver­sa­tion with Schumer and Pelosi.

In a joint state­ment af­ter the Wed­nes­day night din­ner at the White House, the two Democrats said the president had “agreed to en­shrine the pro­tec­tions of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a pack­age of bor­der se­cu­rity, ex­clud­ing the wall, that’s ac­cept­able to both sides.”

White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders quickly con­tra­dicted the Democrats on whether the deal ex­cluded a wall.

“While DACA and bor­der se­cu­rity were both dis­cussed, ex­clud­ing the wall was cer­tainly not agreed to,” San­ders said in a tweet.

Schumer press sec­re­tary Matt House coun­tered on Twit­ter that Trump had “made clear he would con­tinue push­ing the wall, just not as part of this agree­ment.”

With Trump’s or­der giv­ing Con­gress un­til March to strike a leg­isla­tive bar­gain on the fu­ture of DACA re­cip­i­ents, few ob­servers see a res­o­lu­tion any­time soon.

Said U.S. Rep. Joaquin Cas­tro, D-San An­to­nio: “It seems to be an agree­ment to come to a deal at some point.”

But Repub­li­can lead­ers in Con­gress also sought to down­play the sig­nif­i­cance of any un­der­stand­ing be­tween Trump and the Democrats.

“He wasn’t ne­go­ti­at­ing a deal last night,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., “He was talking with Demo­cratic lead­ers to get their per­spec­tives. I think the president un­der­stands that he’s go­ing to have to work with the con­gres­sional ma­jori­ties to get any kind of leg­isla­tive so­lu­tion.”

Ryan sees com­pro­mise

But Ryan also said that Repub­li­cans fa­vor some res­o­lu­tion to the hu­man­i­tar­ian con­cerns about the dream­ers, a group that has re­ceived con­sid­er­able pub­lic sym­pa­thy in polls — and from the president.

“There will be a com­pro­mise,” Ryan said. “This will oc­cur.”

Ryan also em­pha­sized the need to beef up the bor­der. But he didn’t say specif­i­cally whether a com­pro­mise on DACA has to in­clude an agree­ment on wall fund­ing.

A sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of Repub­li­cans, es­pe­cially in Texas, re­main skep­ti­cal about the need for a phys­i­cal wall along the en­tire south­west bor­der. With Democrats’ votes, a DACA com­pro­mise would re­quire only a few Repub­li­cans to sign on.

But in an at­tempt to clar­ify his com­mit­ment to a bor­der wall, Trump’s po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion sent out a fundrais­ing email Thurs­day with the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee.

“There’s been a lot of noise to­day and a lot of ru­mors,” Trump wrote. “Let me set the record straight in the sim­plest lan­guage pos­si­ble. … We will build a wall (not a fence) along the south­ern bor­der of the United States of Amer­ica to help stop il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and keep Amer­ica safe.”

But to re­porters, Trump re­it­er­ated that a deal to fund a bor­der wall with Mex­ico might “come later” ”— in sep­a­rate ne­go­ti­a­tions with law­mak­ers.

“Very im­por­tant is the wall,” he told re­porters on a Florida air­field tar­mac Thurs­day morn­ing. “We have to be sure the wall isn’t ob­structed be­cause with­out the wall I wouldn’t do any­thing. … It doesn’t have to be here, but they can’t ob­struct the wall if it’s in a bud­get or any­thing else.”

“(Trump) wasn’t ne­go­ti­at­ing a deal last night. He was talking with Demo­cratic lead­ers to get their per­spec­tives . ... He’s go­ing to have to work with the con­gres­sional ma­jori­ties to get any kind of leg­isla­tive so­lu­tion.” House Speaker Paul Ryan

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