Democrats find lit­tle to lose in Trump talks

Both sides cau­tious on his will­ing­ness to play ball on DACA

The Dallas Morning News - - Nation - Paul Kane, Ed O’Keefe and Ash­ley Parker, The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Demo­cratic law­mak­ers shut out of gov­er­nance for much of this year now find them­selves at the cen­ter of high-stakes ne­go­ti­a­tions with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump that could achieve a prize they have sought for nearly a decade: per­ma­nent le­gal sta­tus for hun­dreds of thou­sands of unau­tho­rized im­mi­grants.

For a small but vo­cal con­tin­gent of Democrats, these talks are fraught with peril, largely be­cause of their to­tal dis­trust of a man who be­gan his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign two years ago de­scrib­ing unau­tho­rized im­mi­grants from Mex­ico as rapists.

But for Senate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., there is lit­tle to lose. If the deal falls apart, the Demo­cratic lead­ers will be right where they be­gan — no bet­ter and no worse. And a suc­cess­ful ne­go­ti­a­tion would achieve some­thing they failed to pull off when their party con­trolled both Congress and the White House.

“Noth­ing ven­tured, noth­ing gained,” Schumer said in an in­ter­view. “We thought we had an op­por­tu­nity to get some­thing good done, and let’s see what hap­pens.”

Schumer and Pelosi are press­ing ahead with the pres­i­dent’s top ad­vis­ers, hop­ing to reach a deal in a mat­ter of weeks to en­shrine in law an Obama-era ex­ec­u­tive or­der called De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals. It pro­tects from de­por­ta­tion unau­tho­rized im­mi­grants brought to the United States as chil­dren. Trump has crit­i­cized DACA as ex­ec­u­tive over­reach, but he has also ex­pressed em­pa­thy for the young im­mi­grants it pro­tects.

The deep fear among Democrats skep­ti­cal of the ne­go­ti­a­tions is that, in ex­change for per­ma­nent pro­tec­tions for Dream­ers, Trump will win broad new pow­ers and re­sources to en­force im­mi­gra­tion laws that go be­yond adding more agents or technology along the bor­der. The cost of a per­ma­nent DREAM Act, they say, could be a new and em­bold­ened de­por­ta­tion force across the na­tion that un­der­mines civil lib­er­ties and ter­ror­izes law-abid­ing im­mi­grants.

“We’re go­ing to have to be very leery and very care­ful of the slip­pery slope,” said Rep. Luis Gu­tier­rez, D-Ill.

Washington heads are still spin­ning from a ne­go­ti­at­ing dy­namic that no one ex­pected — not Schumer and Pelosi, and not their Repub­li­can coun­ter­parts, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky.

Trump spent his first seven months in an en­tirely par­ti­san bub­ble, work­ing only with Repub­li­cans try­ing, and fail­ing, to pass con­ser­va­tive leg­is­la­tion — no­tably a re­place­ment to the Af­ford­able Care Act.

But Trump’s frus­tra­tion with GOP lead­ers reached a boil­ing point dur­ing the failed ef­fort to re­peal for­mer pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sig­na­ture health care law, los­ing in the Senate by one vote when three Repub­li­cans op­posed Trump. From the White House’s per­spec­tive, that frus­tra­tion — and Trump’s pivot to work­ing with Democrats — is jus­ti­fied.

Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans, mean­while, worry that Pelosi and Schumer could out­smart Trump. The two are sea­soned deal­mak­ers with com­bined ser­vice of more than 65 years on Capi­tol Hill, while Trump is a new­comer who honed his ne­go­ti­at­ing skills in real es­tate.

On Thurs­day, Trump went back and forth on this is­sue, at times seem­ing to en­dorse the Demo­cratic ver­sion of events but then back­ing away from ci­ti­zen­ship, which staunch con­ser­va­tives ve­he­mently op­pose.

Ul­ti­mately, if the deal comes to­gether, it is most likely to hap­pen fast — in weeks and not months, Schumer said. “I’d like to see it within the next lit­tle while. Look, I don’t want to set a date. Soon. Soon is the right word.”

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