Lawmakers clashed over immigration Tuesday as a top House Democrat refused to guarantee votes from his party to keep the government open, ratcheting up chances for a shutdown at week’s end.
Days away from a government funding deadline and lacking a long-term deal, Republicans are expected to offer a short-term agreement that would stave off a shutdown and leave many of the larger questions unresolved. But Democrats are seeking concessions and threatening to block even a stopgap spending measure if they don’t get them.
Republicans are now trying to win over votes to pass a stopgap spending measure that would include extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years, confirming Democrats’ claim that the GOP is holding poor kids hostage to get what it wants (funding the government with no fix to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program). It also reportedly would include a two-year delay in some Obamacare taxes.
Even if Republicans have enough votes to pass it in the House without any Democratic support — something that is very much in doubt given opposition within the Freedom Caucus — it is far from clear what would happen in the Senate. If Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) care so much about a DACA fix as they claim, any two of them (with 49 Democrats) could deny a majority for a spending bill with no relief for “dreamers.” Conversely, if Democrats think the politics favor them, they could not only vote no but also filibuster the measure, something Democratic activists are actively encouraging.
Democrats think they will win a standoff if the issue is President Trump’s demand to build the wall vs. their insistence on protection for dreamers. Democrats are likely encouraged by a Peter Hart poll, commissioned for the progressive group MoveOn.org. Hart found that in 12 Senate battleground states (Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin), 42 percent would blame the president and the GOP for a shutdown, while only 31 percent would blame Democrats. Even more striking:
Fully 81% of battleground voters say a budget agreement should prevent the deportation of Dreamers by granting them legal status to remain in the country. This sentiment is especially strong among independents (85%) and undecided 2018 voters (88%), and even 68% of Trump voters (and 68% of Republicans) concur. Support for protections is nearly as strong in red states, which voted for both Romney and Trump (79%), as in purple states that went for Obama and Trump (82%). The survey also finds 73% having a favorable opinion of the Dreamers, compared with just 23% who have an unfavorable view. The favorable proportion exceeds seven in 10 in both red (71%) and purple (76%) states. Trump voters are favorable to Dreamers by 57% to 38%.
By contrast, battleground-state voters oppose paying for a wall by a 57 percent to 41 percent margin.
How the negotiations unfold, however, may radically change voters’ perceptions. Trump’s racist outburst and refusal to sign off on a bipartisan immigration deal he promised to sign just a few days earlier boosted Democrats’ resolve. They know all too well how unpopular he is and how widely he is viewed as dishonest. Moreover, if Democrats unveil a reasonable, bipartisan approach to fix DACA, Republicans may look for a face-saving way out. Indeed, having seen Trump bluff and fold so many times, Democrats figure he might just do so again.
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