DACA deal on sidelines as GOP floats new short term funding plan to avoid shutdown

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 6:09 PM

Waving off a push by Democrats to force action this week on a compromise over the future of illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” Republicans in Congress said they wanted to wait for further negotiations on DACA, as House GOP leaders unveiled a short term funding plan that would keep the federal government running into mid-February, but that plan faced immediate resistance from some more conservative Republicans.

“There is no reason why Congress should hold government funding hostage over the issues of illegal immigration,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said a resolution on DACA could wait until February or March.

But even without DACA in the mix, a new temporary funding plan unveiled by House Republican leaders last night got a tepid embrace from GOP lawmakers, frustrated by the lack of an overall budget agreement for 2018.

The biggest red flag came from more conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus, who argue the GOP should forge ahead with a plan to fully fund the military for 2018, while leaving all other government operations on a stop gap budget.

After a meeting Tuesday night, Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) made it clear that the group was not ready to endorse the GOP funding plan, which would keep the government running through February 19.

The goal is to use that extra time to reach a broader budget deal with Democrats, allowing the Congress to then approve a larger “Omnibus” funding plan for the 2018 budget year – which began back on October 1, 2017.

It was a replay of a familiar scenario on Capitol Hill, where House Republican infighting might lead to a shutdown at the end of the week.

“It’s a possibility, yes,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), when asked about the chances of a shutdown.

“But I don’t think it’s really going to happen,” Inhofe told reporters. “Nobody really wants it on either side.”

The new GOP stopgap budget unveiled on Tuesday evening included a few sweeteners, as leaders added to the funding plan a provision that reauthorizes the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through 2023.

“Without immediate action to fund CHIP, millions of low-income children will receive notices in the coming weeks that they might lose their health coverage,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) and Rep. Mike Burgess (R-TX) in a statement.

While the CHIP extension had been expected, the GOP stopgap budget included something else that was a big surprise – as the bill would suspend three different taxes from the Obama health law.

While Republicans try to find the votes to support that plan, a bipartisan group of Senators will unveil the final details of their DACA compromise on Wednesday, in hopes of stirring more support.

“I don’t know how this movie ends,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who very publicly said he thought the President had signed on to the compromise DACA plan last Thursday, but then had his mind changed by immigration hard liners in the White House, and the Senate.

One of those opponents is Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who bluntly told the DACA group of six Senators not to even try to push ahead with their plan.

“Might as well roll it straight into the trash can,” Cotton said of the DACA deal, which he has labeled a mass amnesty.

Meanwhile, Democrats were hoping for a budget impasse, as they argue that a resolution on DACA could still be added into the mix this week.

Many Republicans say they also want action on DACA, but they understand in the current environment – after the blow up over what the President said – or did not say – last week, that no agreement can happen right now.

“Unfortunately, about every time we get close to putting our toes in the water, something happens,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA).

The tentative plan is for the House to try to vote on a stop gap budget on Thursday. The Senate could then pass the same measure before a Friday night shutdown deadline.

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Farm bill derailed over House GOP battle on immigration

Published: Friday, May 18, 2018 @ 4:13 PM

Unable to broker an agreement on a schedule for votes on bills dealing with immigration, a simmering internal fight among Republicans on that hot button issue boiled over on the House floor Friday, resulting in the defeat of a major farm policy bill, with the outcome raising the chances that the House will have a wide open showdown over DACA and illegal immigrant “Dreamers” in June.

A frustrated House Speaker Paul Ryan stood with his arms folded in the Well of the House as the 213-198 rejection of the Farm Bill was an embarrassing reminder of the inability of GOP leaders to forge an immigration bill that can pass Congress – and get the support of the President.

“I don’t know if the Freedom Caucus is ever going to say ‘yes’ to anything,” said Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL), as many Republicans blamed the group of more conservative GOP lawmakers for opposing the Farm Bill, in an effort to get a vote on an immigration bill that they would support.

“We had an agreement yesterday,” said Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA). “They pulled back off of that agreement.”

There were 30 Republicans who voted against the Farm Bill, for a mixture of reasons. Some over immigration, some because it spent too much, while there was also a group of more moderate Republicans who opposed changes in work requirements in the food stamp program.

“It doesn’t actually save money,” said Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH). “In the first five years of the bill, it spends more money.”

For others, their opposition had nothing to do with farm policy.

“I think at this point, we really just need to deal with immigration,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the head of the House Freedom Caucus. “Hopefully we’ll fix the Farm Bill and the immigration bill.”

“My main focus was making sure we do immigration policy right,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH).

Those type of comments sparked finger pointing from fellow Republicans.

“When you have people like Jim Jordan taking down the Farm Bill for other issues, they’re acting just like Chuck Schumer and the Democrats over in the Senate,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH).

In the aftermath of the vote, Republicans who have pressed a ‘discharge petition’ to force action on immigration said their efforts were not over.

“What we have been working on most of the week is a timeline, a date certain, when we bring most of this up,” Rep. Denham told reporters, as he predicted there would be 218 signatures soon, which would force action on immigration.

Under the plan, four different immigration bills would be in order, giving all sides an opportunity to bring up their issues – but Denham says the final outcome must be something that allows “Dreamers” a pathway to citizenship, and includes serious border security measures.

“We are now working on the substance of that bill, and trying to come together on a 218-bipartisan bill,” Denham added, saying he was working with the White House as well.

“Ultimately we want to have something we not only put on the President’s desk, but one the President will actually support,” Denham said.

Once there are 218 signatures, that will start a clock for action in June.

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Trump expresses support for victims of Texas school shooting

Published: Friday, May 18, 2018 @ 1:13 PM

In the wake of shooting at a high school in Texas, President Donald Trump on Friday expressed the grief of the nation, telling the families of the victims, “We’re with you in this tragic hour, and we will be with you forever,” as Mr. Trump bemoaned what has become a familiar occurrence, a mass shooting involving young students.

“This has been going on too long in our country,” the President said in the East Room of the White House. “Too many years. Too many decades.”

“My administration is determined to do everything in our power to protect our students, secure our schools, and to keep weapons out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and to others,” Mr. Trump added.

Mr. Trump’s message echoed his words after a mass shooting late last year in Parkland, Florida, which set off a loud political response.

“Everyone must work together, at every level of government, to keep our children safe,” the President said.

“I’m praying for all of the victims and their families and loved ones,” said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), who was seriously wounded in a gun attack last year on a group of Republican lawmakers, gathered for an early morning baseball practice outside of Washington, D.C.

“This is a senseless tragedy,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA).

News of the shooting spread as the U.S. House was wrapping up work for the week, as Democrats swiftly demanded action in the Congress on measures dealing with gun violence.

“Children’s lives are being cut short by senseless gun violence,” said Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA). “It is past time for Congress to act to prevent more innocent deaths.”

“We have to stop this,” said Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA).

“We are not powerless,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA). “We are supposed to be leaders and take action.”

“Congress and Trump must finally have the courage to stand up to the NRA and do what the American people want,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). “Enough is enough!”

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Immigration debate roils Republicans again in Congress

Published: Thursday, May 17, 2018 @ 10:27 PM

An internal wrestling match over the best path forward on immigration left various factions of Republicans in the House increasingly at odds with each other Thursday, imperiling approval of a major farm policy bill, as GOP leaders struggled to prevent an arcane rules maneuver from being used to force a vote on the DACA program.

“What we’ve been trying to do is find an immigration bill that has 218 votes,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. “We’ve been laboring to get to 218.”

“It’s clear that we don’t have 218 for a specific bill,” Ryan told reporters, the first real public admission by GOP leaders that a plan favored by President Trump is not going to make it through the House without changes.

“We’re working in earnest with our members to try to address all of their concerns,” the Speaker added, as meetings in the Capitol among various Republicans stretched into the night.

On one hand, more conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus were trying to get GOP leaders to agree to bring up an immigration bill backed by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) – even though it won’t have enough votes to pass – doing all they can to avoid a vote on a plan which would allow illegal immigrant “Dreamers” to get on a pathway to citizenship in the United States, an idea that was sure to draw support from Democrats.

While over 130 Democrats on Thursday signed onto a special “discharge petition,” which would force votes on four different immigration plans, the key figure was still the number of GOP signatures, which remained at 20.

A combination of 25 Republicans – and all 193 Democrats – would set in motion a procedural push on immigration which GOP leaders want to avoid, because it might only mean a victory for a bill dealing with DACA, and not measures called for by the President on illegal immigration.

These are the 20 GOP lawmakers who have signed on so far:



One solution being floated was a minimal immigration bill dealing with DACA and border security – but the problem for the GOP in the House is fairly straightforward – if a bill does nothing on DACA it loses certain votes, and if you add DACA in, that pushes other Republicans away.

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Trump denounces Russia probe one year after Mueller appointment

Published: Thursday, May 17, 2018 @ 8:20 AM

A year to the day after former FBI Director Robert Mueller was named as Special Counsel to investigate allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, President Donald Trump lashed out at the ongoing probe, again denying that he coordinated any actions with Russia or obstructed justice in the resulting investigation, and charging that the FBI ‘spied’ on his campaign.

“Congratulations America, we are now into the second year of the greatest Witch Hunt in American history,” the President wrote on Twitter.

Mr. Trump’s tweet came a day after the current FBI Director, Christopher Wray, rejected assertions that the probe was a ‘witch hunt,’ telling a Senate panel that his agents are doing the best they can to find the truth about Russian meddling in the 2016 race.

The President’s frustration with the probe came a day after a large document dump from the Senate Judiciary Committee, which officially released testimony – for the first time – of Donald Trump Jr., and others who had been present for a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, where Trump Campaign officials thought they would get ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton.

Among the news items from over 2,000 pages of documents released by the panel:

+ Jared Kushner was described as “agitated” when he didn’t get Hillary Clinton ‘dirt’ in Trump Tower meeting.
+ Donald Trump Jr. denied that his father knew of that meeting or any collusion with Russia.
+ Wikileaks asked Donald Trump Jr. to leak his father’s tax returns to them – so they could then leak them on line.
+ Trump Organization lawyers coordinated the press response in 2017 when news of the Trump Tower meeting got into the press.

The bottom line for the President and his supporters remains straightforward – there was no collusion, no wrongdoing.

While the President and his allies said it was time for the Russia investigation to end, Mueller’s team shows no signs of wrapping up that probe – which began well before he was tapped as Special Counsel – as many Democrats argue it’s obvious much still needs to be learned.

“There’s a lot we still don’t know about the Trump-Russia connection,” said Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO).

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