09232018What's Hot:

Democratic backbiting persists after shutdown defeat

Senate Democrats are struggling to hit the reboot button a day after their shutdown defeat, with their base infuriated and their House counterparts alienated.

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a close ally of Dreamer advocates, urged disappointed liberals to stay focused on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s vow to open debate on immigration legislation in February if no deal is reached by Feb. 8, when government funding next runs out.

Story Continued Below

“We had hoped to achieve more,” Durbin told reporters. “We did achieve something significant. We have a deadline, we have a process, and I think that deadline is right near us. It isn’t like they’re asking for six months or a year. It’s 16 days.”

But the start of a Senate debate isn’t enough for many House Democrats or activists, who fear Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) won’t consider any bipartisan Senate deal to help the young undocumented immigrants. Ryan has said that Dreamers can “rest easy” but has also stayed noncommittal on his time frame or vehicle for an immigration vote.

Senate Democratic leaders “employed horrible negotiation tactics in the last week,” Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas), a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, told POLITICO.

“The path forward [in the House] is very different because it is blatantly clear House Republicans have no intention of putting a bill on the floor giving Dreamers a pathway to citizenship.”

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) acknowledged the tension on Tuesday. “That we did not secure a commitment from Speaker Ryan or get it on a must-pass bill yet, I know is a disappointment to some in the House,” he said in an interview. “But I also don’t think it was realistic ever to think that that was a likely outcome.”

It’s far from clear, however, that the left is prepared to accept Senate Democrats’ version of political reality. Liberals remained up in arms Tuesday, with some activists protesting near Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Brooklyn home base.

“Senate Democrats did not have agency to cut and run on behalf of House Democrats and the grass roots,” Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder Adam Green said Tuesday.

A reconciliation can’t come a minute too soon for the party.

The Democratic grass roots has become a potent tool in legislative battles against President Donald Trump. And Democrats hope the anti-Trump energy that’s been unleashed will serve as a powerful turnout weapon in this year’s midterm elections. A fractured party risks undermining its 2018 prospects and complicating the high-stakes immigration talks.

The bruised feelings among Democrats’ grass-roots allies aren’t shared by all groups, but they had hardly healed on Tuesday. House Democrats also now privately worry that the whole episode has done little more than underscore their irrelevance in the immigration battle.

While House Democrats were struggling to process the deal Schumer accepted Monday — with many venting their frustrations during a private caucus meeting — Senate Democrats were voting overwhelmingly to support the bill to reopen the government. And by the time the short-term spending bill reached the House Monday afternoon, it was a foregone conclusion Republicans could clear the measure on their own, taking away any leverage House Democrats thought they had in the shutdown fight.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD) is pictured. | Getty Images

Now some House Democrats say they’re concerned they will be pressured to support whatever bipartisan immigration bill the Senate can pass — even if many disagree with it.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who spoke at a rally of fired-up activists on Friday night before voting on Monday to take McConnell’s offer, reminded demoralized activists and House Democrats that their energy would be needed again to help push any immigration deal through the Senate next month.

“Look, I share people’s frustration, but this was a step forward,” Van Hollen said Tuesday. “It creates a path to getting this done, and now we all need to unite to have a big vote in the Senate.”

Schumer aides met Tuesday with some immigration advocacy groups, signaling that the party and its allies are trying to move forward. And some Democrats who opposed the short-term agreement to reopen the government were also trying to accentuate the positive.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who joined 15 fellow Democrats in opposing the stopgap spending bill, said Tuesday that it was “certainly an achievement that [McConnell] has made the guarantee of debate on the floor.”

Even so, huge hurdles remain to crafting any immigration package that can make it to the House floor, let alone Trump’s desk. Some liberal groups are warning that their grass-roots members are ready to turn up the pressure on Democrats.

“Generally, those same people who’ve been marching in the streets get angry and lose faith in leadership when they don’t stand up for progressive values,” said Angel Padilla, policy director at the liberal group Indivisible. “Just because you have a Democratic senator doesn’t mean they don’t need some work.”

Significant primary challenges to sitting Democratic senators remain unlikely, but a less enthusiastic base would be deeply damaging in a midterm election in which Congress is up for grabs.

One Senate Democratic leadership aide urged activists to train their firepower on Republicans, who control the reins of power, in order to get an immigration deal: “Rather than attacking each other, we should keep our eye on the ball of getting DACA done.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer is pictured. | AP Photo

Additionally, a large swath of House Democrats, particularly members of the minority caucuses, have already come out against a bipartisan immigration proposal from Durbin and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Their plan would protect Dreamers, but also beef up border security and make changes to family-based migration and the diversity visa system that many House Democrats say is unacceptable.

The White House has come out against the plan, but some senators still hope it will be the primary legislative vehicle in the Senate.

Another concern, House Democrats say, is Schumer proposing to fund the border wall at a meeting with Trump last Friday. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus vented about the move during a private meeting Monday afternoon. Schumer said Tuesday he had rescinded the wall offer over the weekend, but some Democrats in the House dismissed that, saying they fully expect Republicans to use it against them in negotiations.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) summed up the mood on Tuesday in observing that the party’s handling of the shutdown battle may not have been “the wisest course of action.”

“And you know, you live, you learn from these things. And we will,” she told reporters. “We will have another opportunity, trust me.”

Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.

This article tagged under:

Missing out on the latest scoops? Sign up for POLITICO Playbook and get the latest news, every morning — in your inbox.

Source: POLITICO – TOP Stories

comments powered by HyperComments

More on the topic