Time for Republicans to play hardball on DACA

Republicans have plenty of leverage in the stalled talks about passing a new version of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. It’s time for them to quit negotiating with Democrats and use it.

On Friday, the government runs out of money. That shouldn’t be related to passing a new DACA measure, but a new spending bill needs 60 votes in the Senate. Republicans have only 51. Democrats want a DACA fix in place in exchange for voting for the spending bill.

Created by then-President Barack Obama, DACA allowed illegal immigrants who came here as children to receive administrative protection from deportation. In Nevada, around 13,000 signed up for the program. In September 2017, President Donald Trump announced that he would end DACA in six months. He didn’t kill it immediately because he wanted Congress to pass a constitutional fix.

A recent poll shows that 70 percent of Americans want legal status for DACA recipients. Democrats think those numbers show DACA is a winning issue. Some want to shut the government down over it.

That theory leaves out important data. A Politico poll in December found that 63 percent of the public don’t want the government shut down for any reason. Just 25 percent think it’d be worth shutting the government down over DACA. If the numbers are that low nationally, imagine what they are in Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Missouri. Those states all have Democratic senators running for re-election in 2018.

That’s why Republicans should bring the funding bill up for a vote — without DACA. Either Democrats blink and vote to keep the government open or several Senate Democrats vote to end their political careers. Republicans get either a policy win or a political win. That’s leverage. The only way it doesn’t work is if Republicans refuse to play the winning hand.

There are signs that Republicans are considering something along this line. There are even rumblings that they’ll attach funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program to garner some Democratic votes. That’d be a tough vote for Democrats such as Rep. Jacky Rosen, a U.S. Senate candidate. Either she’d be voting against CHIP funding or she’d be voting for government funding without a DACA fix.

Assuming Republicans pull that off, the DACA issue won’t go away. DACA would be a political problem if Republicans weren’t willing to compromise. But they are. Last week, Trump caused an uproar with his derogatory, albeit belatedly disputed, comments. Easily missed was that Trump was discussing a compromise on DACA. Republicans have signaled they would vote for DACA in exchange for Democrat concessions on border wall funding and other immigration reforms.

Now that Democrats appear more interested in demagoguery than deliberations, Republicans should bring their own compromise bill forward. It should include mandatory E-Verify, which requires employers to confirm that employees are legally able to work. A September 2017 poll by The Washington Post and ABC found a whopping 82 percent of Americans support the idea. Other immigration reform proposals, such as ending chain migration, also poll well.

Put forward a compromise that includes DACA, mandatory E-Verify, money for Trump’s wall and ending chain migration and the diversity visa lottery. Dare Democrats to vote against proposals that poll in the 70s and 80s. You’ll either get a policy win or a political one.

Leverage allows you to put your opponents in a tough spot. It’s time for Republicans to quit playing nice and do just that.

Listen to Victor Joecks discuss his columns each Monday at 9 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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