Republicans are reeling Thursday morning after President Donald Trump stunned Washington yet again, by coming to an agreement with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to protect several hundred thousand undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Trump had invited the Democratic pair to dinner at the White House Wednesday and did not extend an invite to Republican leaders.
The deal on the DACA program, revealed by a late-night statement by Schumer and Pelosi and then confirmed by Trump Thursday morning to reporters, is only in its early stages and could still come undone, but it centers around allowing undocumented immigrants who came here as children (aka Dreamers) to stay in the United States, while also making significant investments in security on the U.S.-Mexico border. Just 10 days ago the administration rescinded DACA, the program enacted in 2012 by Obama’s executive order, with a six-month delay to give Congress time to pass a legislative fix that the Obama administration had been unable to pass.
Money for Trump’s long-promised border wall would not be included and would be debated later, the president told reporters Thursday morning, adding that he and the Dems were “fairly close” to a deal. It is not known if such a deal would grant citizenship to Dreamers or just shield them from deportation and thereby leave them in legal limbo.
Republicans’ response to the agreement — the second such bipartisan deal Trump has made in the past week — ranged from disbelief to anger. Speaker Paul Ryan’s office said that Ryan and Trump had not yet spoken, despite Trump telling reporters that Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are “very much on board with the deal.”
McConnell later released a statement saying that “we look forward to receiving the Trump administration’s legislative proposal,” knowing that the president’s team likely didn’t have one ready. The second-highest ranking Republican in the Senate, John Cornyn of Texas, described last night’s events as “a deal to make a deal.”
And Rep. Mark Meadows, the head of the conservative Freedom Caucus, insisted to the Washington Post that “based on my conversations with well-informed people, there is no agreement.”
But the frustration among Republican members of Congress may come from being cut out of the negotiations rather than the final result of the deal. Many Republicans were wary of building a border wall and do not support deporting Dreamers.
Pro-Trump figures in conservative media, however, reacted with a more sincere form of outrage at the substance of the deal.
Breitbart, which is now being run by former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, labeled Trump “Amnesty Don” and many other conservative media figures criticized the deal.
Fox News’ Sean Hannity called the potential deal “political suicide” but blamed congressional Republicans’ legislative failures for Trump’s sudden chumminess with Schumer and Pelosi.
Despite the cries of betrayal from conservatives, Trump has consistently signaled he would be more compassionate with Dreamers than other undocumented immigrants since he won the presidency. He also constantly promised on the campaign trail that he would “do deals” with Democrats, something he did not do at all in the early months of his presidency. He took to Twitter Thursday morning to defend his approach and rebuke some of his critics.
Barack Obama tried to get Congress to pass legislation to protect Dreamers for nearly 8 years. But it may be Donald Trump, who ran one of the most nativist presidential campaigns in American history, who actually gets it done.