Trump prods Congress amid im­mi­gra­tion de­bate

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - National -

From wire ser­vices

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump warned Tues­day that it’s now or never when it comes to ex­tend­ing pro­tec­tions for young im­mi­grants, while Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell threw his weight be­hind leg­is­la­tion based on the pres­i­dent’s pri­or­i­ties.

Mr. Trump, in an ear­ly­morn­ing tweet, said Con­gress­must act now to pro­vide le­gal pro­tec­tions to young “Dreamer” im­mi­grants even as leg­is­la­tion faces an un­cer­tain prospect in Congress. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could fi­nally, af­ter so many years, solve the DACA puz­zle,” he wrote, adding: “This will be our last chance, there will never be an­other op­por­tu­nity!March 5th.”

Mr. Trump was re­fer­ring to a dead­line he an­nounced last year to end a pro­gram pro­tect­ing young im­mi­grants from de­por­ta­tion. But a re­cent court rul­ing has ren­dered that dead­line all but mean­ing­less.

The com­ments came the day af­ter the Se­nate voted 971 — Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pro­vided the sole “no” vote — to plunge into an open-ended im­mi­gra­tion de­bate that has been promised by Mr. McCon­nell. Both par­ties’ lead­ers hope de­bate can be con­cluded this week, but it’s un­clear if that will hap­pen or what the prod­uct, if any, will be.

But ac­tion ground to a halt Tues­day amid par­ti­san in­fight­ing.

Repub­li­cans blamed Democrats for stalling de­bate while Democrats com­plained that Repub­li­cans were propos­ing bills that go far beyond the de­bate over Dream­ers and bor­der se­cu­rity that most se­na­tors agree should be ad­dressed.

“Once you go out­side the bound­aries of bor­der se­cu­rity, Dream­ers, ex­pe­ri­ence shows, you run amok,” said Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

But Mr. McCon­nell, RKy., said all ideas should be al­lowed to come for­ward for votes. De­spite the stand­still, he ex­pects to fin­ish the bill this week.

It be­came ap­par­ent late Tues­day, though, that nei­ther side had ac­tual leg­isla­tive text ready for vot­ing — and those pro­pos­als would be un­likely to reach the 60vote thresh­old needed from a coali­tion of Repub­li­cans and Democrats for pas­sage.

In­stead, bi­par­ti­san ef­forts con­tin­ued on the side­lines to strike a deal that could win sup­port. Even as the floor de­bate fal­tered, a bi­par­ti­san group of se­na­tors was work­ing be­hind the scenes to draft an im­mi­gra­tion pro­posal that could garner the 60 votes nec­es­sary to over­come a fil­i­buster.

One GOP pro­posal would pave a path to cit­i­zen­ship for up to 1.8 mil­lion young “Dreamer” im­mi­grants in the U.S., a lure for Democrats that many Repub­li­cans op­pose. Mr. Trump also wants $25 bil­lion for Mr. Trump’s bor­der wall with Mex­ico and other se­cu­rity mea­sures, as well as curbs on le­gal im­mi­gra­tion — a must for many Repub­li­cans.

Mr. McCon­nell and other GOP sup­port­ers de­scribe the mea­sure as the Se­nate’s best shot of pass­ing a bill that the pres­i­dent will sign, but many Democrats con­sider some of the pro­pos­als, in­clud­ing lim­it­ing the rel­a­tives that le­gal im­mi­grants can bring to the U.S., to be non-starters.

For their part, Se­nate Democrats are ral­ly­ing around an im­mi­gra­tion plan crafted by one of the House’s lead­ing bor­der ex­perts, San An­to­nio Rep. Will Hurd — who­hap­pens to be a Repub­li­can. Mr. Hurd’s plan, pitched in the Se­nate by John McCain, R-Ariz., and Chris Coons, D-Del., of­fers a path­way to cit­i­zen­ship for De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals re­cip­i­ents in ex­change for in­creased bor­der se­cu­rity that uses bar­ri­ers in some places and tech­nol­ogy in oth­ers.

It also in­creases the num­ber of im­mi­gra­tion judges to solve back­logs in im­mi­gra­tion courts and seeks to im­prove con­di­tions in Cen­tral Amer­ica to stop chil­dren from seek­ing refuge across the bor­der.

Mul­vaney hawks bud­get

The White House bud­get di­rec­tor came to Capi­tol Hill on Tues­day to sell Mr. Trump’s bud­get, but the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s al­lies in the Se­nate pre­ferred to talk about last year’s tax cut rather than the tril­lion-dol­lar deficits con­tained in the new spend­ing plan.

The pres­i­dent’s bud­get for the first time ac­knowl­edges that the Repub­li­can tax over­haul would add bil­lions to the deficit and not “pay for it­self” with eco­nomic growth and higher rev­enues.

Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get Di­rec­tor Mick Mul­vaney didn’t talk much about the deficit in his twohour ap­pear­ance. He drafted the $4.4 tril­lion bud­get plan re­leased Mon­day.

“I would rather bring you num­bers that are true and hon­est, that set forth a bet­ter pic­ture of our fis­cal con­di­tion, than lie to you and tell you the bud­get would bal­ance in 10 years,” Mr. Mul­vaney said.

In­fra­struc­ture do­na­tion

Mr. Trump do­nated his $100,000 pres­i­den­tial salary for the fourth quar­ter of 2017 to the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion, to help fund a new grant pro­gram for re­pair­ing or build­ing in­fra­struc­ture, fed­eral of­fi­cials said Tues­day.

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