Trump threatens government shutdown unless Democrats make DACA deal

Updated February 7, 2018 - 6:11 am

President Donald Trump threatened Tuesday to shut down the federal government later this week and blame Democrats for forcing his hand if they don’t agree to his proposed compromise to extend legal protections for DACA recipients.

“I’d love to see a shutdown if we don’t get this stuff taken care of,” Trump said during a White House law enforcement roundtable. He said “shutdown” six other times.

Five House GOP members also were on hand for the roundtable, and one, Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Virginia, tried to nudge Trump away from his heated rhetoric. “We don’t need a government shutdown on this,” she told Trump.

“But, Barbara, we are not getting support from the Democrats,” the president countered, “I mean, you can say what you want. We’re not getting support from the Democrats.”

On Twitter, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., responded, “The last thing America needs is another #TrumpShutdown. #DoYourJob.”

Is Trump serious about a shutdown when funding runs out at midnight Thursday?

Probably not, said GOP strategist and Fox News contributor Brad Blakeman. “I think he’s frustrated mainly,” he said, referring to the chilly reception Trump’s proposed DACA compromise had received from both sides of the aisle.

Spending bill could avert shutdown

Later in the day, the House passed a stopgap spending measure, with a boost in military spending, a move that began the legislative dance that could prevent a shutdown.

In January, Senate Democrats closed the government over a weekend when Congress refused to pass a temporary spending bill that included an extension of DACA, President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that gave legal status to undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children. The idea was to force Republicans to cave rather than be blamed for a government shutdown, but it didn’t work.

Three days later, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., capitulated. Progressives accused him of caving, but it was never clear how they expected the tactic to work when Republicans control both Congress and the Oval Office.

(Republicans made a similar miscalculation in 2013 when they refused to pass a spending bill in a doomed effort to defund Obamacare, even though they did not control the White House or Senate.)

Yet while the House was moving forward with a measure unencumbered by DACA, Trump would not move on.

After the January shutdown, Trump revealed his framework for a DACA compromise. He made concessions by more than doubling the number of “Dreamers” who would be protected from deportation to 1.8 million. He also went Obama one better by including a path to citizenship.

In return, Trump wanted Democrats to agree to a framework with three other pillars — $25 billion for his beloved southern border wall and other security measures; a limit to chain migration for immigrants so that only immediate family could follow them; and an end to the diversity visa lottery system.

The moves, conservatives argued, were necessary to assure Trump’s base that an offer of what they would consider “amnesty” would not spark a new influx of illegal immigration.

Renewed focus on criminal element

Trump himself has sought to provide further assurances by returning to a central theme of his campaign, when he promised to curb illegal immigration to keep criminals out of the country.

On Friday, he participated in a customs and border enforcement roundtable focused on how to keep criminals from crossing the border.

Then came Tuesday’s session at the White House, which examined the growing presence of the violent Central American-based MS-13 gang in the U.S. Assistant Attorney General John Cronan told the group there are an estimated 10,000 MS-13 gang members in the country, “primarily composed of immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador.”

Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Maria Cardona decried what she said was political theater aimed at sabotaging the DACA negotiations.

“It was orchestrated to focus on the criminality of a very tiny percentage of the immigrant population, to taint with a broad brush of tar all dreamers as criminals, violent rapists and people who want to do the country harm,” she said. “It’s outrageous and downright shameful.”

Trump struck a similar note earlier in the day, when he tweeted about the death of Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson and his Uber driver. Police have charged a Guatemalan citizen who, they say, had been deported twice but was back in the country illegally and driving drunk.

“This is just one of many such preventable tragedies. We must get the Dems to get touch on the Border, and with illegal immigration, FAST!” Trump tweeted.

‘How much more can he do?’

The president’s rhetoric has not helped narrow the DACA divide, said Blakeman, the GOP strategist, who isn’t sure the self-professed deal-maker can bring the two sides together.

“How much more can he do?” Blakeman asked. “It’s a shame because the president has been very reasonable.”

The distance he has to cover within his own party was on display Tuesday morning at the National Press Club, where Advocates for Victims of Illegal Alien Crime held a news conference with a group of sheriffs to talk against sanctuary city laws.

Asked if he would support Trump’s immigration plan, the group’s president, Don Rosenberg, said, “No absolutely not. We’re not ready to support anything about DACA until any of the other issues — sanctuary cities, E-Verify, deportation — … (are) rectified.”

In 2013, Rosenberg’s son, Drew, was killed in 2010 in San Francisco by an undocumented immigrant driving without a driver’s license, who ran over Drew, then backed over him.

He summed up his opposition to the plan succinctly. “Deportation,” he said, “is not worse than death.”

Contact Debra J. Saunders at or at 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

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