Earlier this week, Democrats made a deal with Republicans to reopen the federal government just a few days after shutting it down. The negotiations cover a number of spending issues, but the main point of contention is DACA, a program that allows DREAMers (undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children) to live and work legally in the US. Barack Obama instituted DACA in an executive order that Donald Trump moved to reverse last year—now Democrats (and some Republicans) want to enshrine DACA into law. DACA is popular with the public, and immigration activists—as well as the Democrats' left-wing base—have been pushing the Democrats to refuse to support any budget deal that doesn't include DACA, even if that means shutting down the government.
Those activists can't have been pleased by the latest news out of Congress—on Wednesday night, Politico reported that Senate Democrats were preparing to drop their demands on DACA to get a budget deal done. In all likelihood, that means no shutdown, but also no legislation to help the nearly 800,000 DREAMers who may soon be at risk of being deported. "Democrats Officially Lost the Shutdown Fight" was how a New York headline put it.
Also this week Trump announced he'd be willing to consider a path to citizenship for DREAMers. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says there will be a debate over DACA and other immigration issues soon, for whatever that's worth. But while it's increasingly apparent that Democrats will probably give Trump money for his famous border wall as part of any immigration deal, it's not clear if that deal will become reality soon enough to help the DREAMers.
According to Politico's sources, immigration and spending are now being viewed as separate issues in the Senate. House Democrats don't necessarily agree with their Senate colleagues' approach, but they can't stop a bill from passing by themselves. As of now, per the Politico report, the Senate has agreed to massively increase defense spending, but domestic spending levels are still up for debate. Both parties have agreed to prioritize the opioid crisis.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer laid out his strategy for how to get a DACA bill done in a Tuesday-night interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. “McConnell refused to put Dreamer legislation on a so-called must-pass bill," the Democrat said. "But if we pass it in the Senate with a bipartisan vote, we have a good chance to put pressure on the House to do it. Particularly if they don't do it by March 5, God forbid, but the pictures of people being deported will rally the nation and the House will be forced to do it.”
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