Trump prods Congress amid immigration debate
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.
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.