WASHINGTON — As Washington held its breath to see if Republicans and Democrats could pass a spending and immigration bill to avert a government shutdown, President Donald Trump’s potty mouth entered the stage.
As two senators briefed the president Thursday on a compromise immigration measure that, among other things, would restore protections for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and African nations, Trump reportedly complained, “Why are we having people from all these s—-hole countries come here?”
According to the Washington Post, Trump then suggested the United States should admit more people from countries like Norway — as he had met with that country’s prime minister Wednesday.
Trump’s language prompted waves of indignation on cable TV. Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, released a statement in which she said, “The president must apologize to both the American people and the nations he so wantonly maligned.”
Democratic strategist Maria Cardona tweeted, “When will everyone realize this racist, xenophobic @POTUS WILL NEVER CHANGE!!??”
But conservative commentator Ann Coulter said of Trump: “He’s trying to win me back.”
The White House did not deny reports on Trump’s language. Instead spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement, “Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people.”
Earlier in the day, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., announced a bipartisan group of six senators was close to a deal on extending President Barack Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides legal status to nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came into the United States as children.
Trump’s comments came as two of the six senators — Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill. — presented details of the compromise measure and the restoration of protections for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and African nations. (Last week the administration announced it was withdrawing temporary protected status for 200,000 Salvadorans.)
The lawmakers had hoped Trump would back their accord, but White House press secretary Sarah Sanders nixed that notion. “There has not been a deal reached yet,” Sanders said. And Washington knows that no compromise bill is likely to pass the Senate unless Trump says he supports it.
The immigration debate has become inextricably linked with talks on a new spending measure. Both parties have been working to pass a spending bill before a Jan. 19 deadline in order to avert a government shutdown.
But Democrats have threatened to oppose a bill unless it includes a DACA extension, while Trump and Republicans want it to address border security.
Since a bill will require 60 votes to pass the Senate and there are just 51 Republican senators, any measure will need bipartisan support.
Some Democrats have threatened to vote against any measure that does not include a “clean” DACA extension — that is, a continuance of DACA without border security provisions sought by Republicans.
But Senate Democrats abandoned a plan to force a shutdown in December. And during a Tuesday meeting Trump hosted in the Cabinet Room with lawmakers from both parties, Durbin and other Democrats said they could support a compromise that included border security.
Ideally for those Democrats open to compromise, a new bill also would provide a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and expand to cover another million-plus “Dreamers” who were brought into the country illegally as children but are not covered under DACA.
Republicans had their own set of asks: money for border security, with or without funding for Trump’s beloved border wall; limits on family unification, also known as chain migration; an end to the visa lottery program; and a requirement that employers use the E-Verify system to ensure they hire only legal workers.
Trump said Tuesday that he would sign whatever bill Congress sent to his desk. The next day, however, he told a reporter, “Any solution has to include the wall, because without a wall it doesn’t work.”
Republicans at Thursday’s White House meeting balked at provisions in the proposed bipartisan measure to extend renewable temporary legal status to the parents of DACA recipients.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., came out against a separate measure introduced by four House Republicans that includes the GOP’s top wish list items on chain migration, the visa lottery and E-Verify — and would extend DACA for three years.
Schumer said that, while he supports “a package of border security measures,” the House measure is “counterproductive and completely unacceptable.”
If Democrats choose to shut down the government over DACA, GOP strategist Alice Stewart predicted they will become the obstructionists they abhorred during the Obama years.
But Stewart expects lawmakers to reach an agreement. “They’re going to wait until the eleventh hour,” she said, because that’s how Congress operates.
Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., also predicted a bill would pass. “In the House, if the Republicans can’t put together 218 votes for a border bill,” he said, “then shame on (House Speaker) Paul Ryan.”
Contact Debra J. Saunders at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.