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McConnell: We’re settling DACA and border security this week

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A fine goal — not a terribly realistic one, but a fine goal. As Mitch McConnell said in opening the debate over “dreamers” and border security issues in the Senate, it’s not as if he’s springing the issues on the upper chamber. With a deadline on DACA approaching, it’s time for action rather than endless and unlimited debate.

That’s actually been true since 2006, but even more so now:

The Senate majority leader on Tuesday announced that the Senate’s work on a solution to the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will be limited to this week. McConnell said Democrats should have been ready for this week’s crucial test of whether the Senate can produce 60 votes for an immigration bill.

“Senators have had plenty of time to prepare. There’s no reason why we should not reach a bipartisan solution this week. But to do this, we need to get the debate started, look past making political points and focus on actually making law,” McConnell said.

McConnell later attempted to set up floor votes on a sanctuary cities amendment from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and a competing proposal chosen by Democrats. But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) objected, saying the Toomey language “doesn’t address Dreamers, nor does it address border security” — the two basic elements at the center of this week’s debate.

How did that go over? About as well as one would expect in the current climate. Chuck Schumer objected, creating a long delay to the fast start:

McConnell has proposed that Republicans bring up an amendment targeting cities that don’t fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Then, Democrats would bring up an amendment of their choosing. Amendments gaining 60 votes would become part of the immigration bill.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has objected.

Schumer wants McConnell to bring up legislation that incorporates President Donald Trump’s priorities and a second, much narrower bill from Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Chris Coons, D-Del.

The disagreement means there could be several more hours of speeches before any votes occur.

The problem seems to be that Democrats aren’t convinced yet that they can’t force Trump and the GOP to bend to their will. Jazz wrote earlier that Schumer is backing away from a comprehensive plan for immigration, but he may be looking to do that by forcing votes on the more comprehensive proposal from the White House first. Strategically, that makes sense if you think you can win the overall point. Democrats won’t have gotten worn down yet, and enough Republicans may have issues with the Trump proposal to deny it the necessary 60 votes to proceed to cloture. That would leave McConnell little choice but to bring up the McCain-Coons bill or the Durbin-Graham draft, both of which give Democrats DACA without surrendering on the border wall.

However, that strategy suffers from another problem. Without the border wall and other changes to prevent more DACA issues down the road, it’s also unlikely that either of those proposals will get to 60 — not without amendments addressing those shortcomings. Even if it did, Trump would almost certainly threaten a veto, and Paul Ryan would likely either spike it or whip Republicans into rejecting it. It would be a huge waste of time and effort in front of a March 5th deadline that Trump insists will not get extended.

And that’s an even bigger problem — for Democrats. McConnell promised them votes on DACA in return for Schumer unlinking it from the budget. McConnell is now delivering on that promise, as is Ryan in the House. If DACA expires without a resolution, it won’t be Republicans paying a price for it. It will be Democrats who get the political blowback for having left themselves without leverage. Trump won’t care at all; he’s waiting to get his border wall. No wall funding, no DACA. The people who will get angriest about that already detest Trump anyway.

All of this maneuvering is silly beyond belief anyway. The deal is going to be the wall for DACA, plus perhaps some concessions on both sides over chain migration and the visa lottery system. We’ve known that for months, and the only thing that’s changed in that time is the dissipation of Democratic leverage. This shouldn’t take a week to conclude; it should be obvious to wrap up in a few hours. But because everyone involved has an incentive to drag it out and grandstand, McConnell’s goal seems as unrealistic as it is reasonable.

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