Trump threatens another government shutdown over immigration
Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump threatened to shut down the government again this weekend if Democrats don’t agree to his immigration reform plans, specifically what he called loopholes in the immigration system that could allow dangerous criminals into the country.
“If we don’t change this legislation if we don’t get rid of these loopholes…if we don’t change it, let’s have a shutdown,” Trump said at a meeting with law enforcement officials on threats from the MS-13 gang. “I’d love to see a shutdown if we don’t get this stuff taken care of.”
“If we have to shut it down because the Democrats don’t want safety, and unrelated, but still related they don’t want to take care of our military, shut it down,” the president continued.
Trump released his plan for immigration reform last month and underscored it in the State of the Union address last week. His four pillars of reform include funding for the border wall, a path to citizenship for 1.8 million “Dreamers” eligible for protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, and an end to policies that offer visas through a lottery system or help family members obtain visas or green cards.
“I would shut it down over this issue,” he said. “If we don’t straighten out our border, we don’t have a country, without borders, we don’t have a country, so would I shut it down over this issue? Yes, I can’t speak for our great representatives here but I have a feeling they may agree with me.”
Government funding is set to run out on Thursday night and the government could shut down again if Congress can’t come to an agreement on a deal to fund the government. The government shut down last month partly because Democrats and Republicans could not reach a deal on a solution for DACA recipients.
Just as the president was calling for another shutdown, leaders on the Hill were touting that they are on the verge of a big spending deal to avoid another shutdown.
“I’m optimistic that very soon we’ll be able to reach an agreement,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters, as the president was delivering his remarks across town.
Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said they are “making good progress” on a deal that would increase military and domestic spending caps.
“I am very hopeful that we can come to an agreement and an agreement very soon,” he said.
But when it comes to immigration, the two parties are nowhere near a deal but no one on the Hill is talking about shutting down the government over immigration again. And even if the current spending deal fell through there is bipartisan support for another short-term stop gap measure.
Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., said in the White House meeting that there is bipartisan support for the president’s proposals, saying “we do not need a government shutdown on this.”
But the president said he did not expect support from Democrats.
“You can say what you want, we’re not getting support from the Democrats on this legislation,” Trump said in response to Comstock.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin are expected to meet Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
Kelly met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the Capitol Tuesday morning.
Hoyer told reporters that inside those negotiations, Democrats are encouraged by Trump expanding the pool of DACA-eligible recipients to people who did not initially sign up. He said that Kelly has not conveyed his message that the president won’t extend the March 5 deadline.
He also said Democrats can support the president’s request for border security, but draws the line at reforms to chain migration and the visa lottery system – insisting those reforms should be excluded until they’re part of comprehensive immigration reform. Hoyer proposed that House Speaker Paul Ryan take a “Queen of the Hill” approach – putting every immigration bill under the Capitol dome up for a floor vote and whichever measure prevails with the most votes advances to the president’s desk.
Kelly told reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday that the president will not extend the March 5 deadline for Dreamers, even though Trump said last week that he might extend the deadline. Kelly said the deadline puts pressure on Congress to act and that he also advises against a short-term solution.
The president has said he supports expanding the number of people eligible for protections under DACA to 1.8 million, a move Kelly called “stunning.” But Kelly also referenced the idea that DACA recipients could have been “too lazy” to sign up to renew their protected status.
“690,000 official DACA registrants and the president sent over what amounts to be double that 1.8 million. The difference between 690,000 and 1.8 million were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses but they didn’t sign up,” Kelly told reporters from the Washington Post and Politico, according to those publications.
Rep Peter King, R-N.Y., after the White House meeting on MS-13, made clear he holds a different view than Kelly.
“DACA people I know are pretty hard working,” he said in a response to a question by ABC News and added, when asked, that he’d let the chief of staff speak for himself on whether that type of rhetoric is useful.
Kind also said he thought the president was talking about “the future” and not the present when talking about a shutdown, saying he doesn’t think there’s any need for one right now.
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