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Both parties dismiss ‘Dreamers’ deal to end shutdown

Democrats and Republicans alike are panning a large-scale immigration deal for the president’s desired border wall as the solution to a shutdown. | M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico

Government Shutdown

A divided Congress and Trump’s insistence on more border money is pushing a solution to reopen the government further away.

Updated

Heading into a critical meeting with President Donald Trump on Friday, Democrats and Republicans alike are panning a large-scale immigration deal for Trump’s wall as the solution to a shutdown.

Though some Trump allies have suggested that a fix for thousands of young immigrants who could be deported may be the key to solving the deadlock, both Trump’s allies and Democratic leaders rejected the idea as the shutdown extended into its 14th day.

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Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, No. 4 in House Democratic leadership, dismissed the idea of a border wall trade-off for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that allows children of undocumented immigrants to obtain work permits and stay in the country.

“The President needs to understand that DACA and Dreamers are not part of the wall,” Lujan said in an interview. “I don’t support one more penny for this president’s wall. I don’t believe that the two need to be tied to one another.”

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a conservative House leader who is close to Trump, added that any kind of broad accord on Dreamers simply won’t happen.

“I do not see a comprehensive ‘Gang of Eight’ bill getting signed by the president,” Meadows said Friday.

The Senate went out of session until Tuesday shortly before the meeting. Barring a surprise deal and quick votes, the shutdown will now go until Tuesday and extend for 18 days, the second-longest in modern history after a 21-day shutdown in the 1990s.

Trump will sit down with top leaders in both parties just two days after their last unproductive session in the Situation Room, where the fate of Dreamers is widely expected to come up.

Multiple Trump allies, including his close friend and Fox News host Sean Hannity, have floated a Dreamers deal as a potential way out of the shutdown, despite failed talks last year that also led to a budget lapse.

Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday also told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson that the administration is considering a deal that may involve Dreamers, the children of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States.

“There’s a lot of people talking about a lot of different ideas,” he said. “Frankly, the better part of a year ago, the president expressed a willingness to deal with the issue of Dreamers in a compassionate way so people who were brought here as children, through no fault of their own — he’s discussed that. It’s being talked about.”

With more than 800,000 federal workers feeling the effects of the shutdown and at least two Republican senators breaking with their party over the shutdown, some lawmakers have signaled a new sense of urgency to end the shutdown.

Yet a deal remains out of reach, as GOP leaders on Friday are expected to flatly reject the Democrats’ funding plan to reopen nine agencies that have been shuttered since Dec. 22.

In their first votes in the majority, House Democrats passed a bill to reopen the government Thursday night while punting a border fight for another month. Senate Republicans have already said they will ignore that package, as well as any others, until Trump himself gives an endorsement.

But Democrats didn’t seem eager to adjust their positioning. As he left the Capitol for the meeting, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) indicated that his message to Trump will be the same as it’s been for days: “Open up the government. Support our bills.”

Republicans continue to pin the blame on Democrats for refusing to negotiate on the wall funding, even as Trump himself moves in the other direction.

“There are a lot of ideas that we could ultimately work through to get this government back open, but it’s got to start with securing the border. At some point we’re going to have to have an honest negotiation,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said in a brief interview Thursday night.

When asked if more fencing needed to be part of that deal, Scalise replied: “Fencing is part of any honest plan to secure the border.”

GOP lawmakers privately say that Democrats — who have proudly been the anti-shutdown party for years — will be forced to cave if there is no deal for several more weeks. They also say Pelosi’s ascension to the speaker’s chair on Thursday will make her more amenable to a deal, that would have otherwise drawn flak from her party’s progressive flank.

President Trump has surprise press briefing about border wall

But House Democrats insist that they aren’t budging, and say it’s up to Republicans leaders in the White House and in the Capitol to soften their demands.

“What’s going to have to happen is that some Republicans in the Senate provide a reality check to the president. We’ve tried to make it easy, but I have no idea when they’ll do it — or if they’ll do it,” said long-time Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), who oversees a funding bill that has been held up in the stalemate.

Senate GOP leaders have said they will not take up the Democrats’ funding plan, which the White House has formally threatened to veto. McConnell has attempted to remove himself from the fray altogether, saying it is up to Trump and congressional Democrats to end their stalemate.

Democratic leaders have not publicly announced their next steps after Thursday night’s funding votes. Some lawmakers have suggested the House could decide to keep sending funding bills to the Senate throughout the entirety of the shutdown — just as Republicans did in 2013 during an Obamacare funding face-off.

With no clear plan, both chambers intend to adjourn for the weekend, just days into the new Congress and two weeks into a shutdown.

Price said Democrats will “keep trying to reopen the government,” though he doesn’t know if Democrats will want to waste time with multitudes of bills that the Senate won’t take up.

“It may be what we end up doing. That depends on the Senate not on us. We’re not looking to just constantly send bills, we don’t enjoy exercises in futility. But what are we supposed to do?” Price said.

Heather Caygle contributed to this story.

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