National and Hometown Papers Criticize Republican Failure to Advance Solution
Last week, Trump called on Republican senators to oppose the bipartisan legislative solutions for Dreamers that could actually pass. In response, editorial boards across the nation are assigning responsibility for this crisis where it belongs:
Unfortunately, Mr. Trump is not interested in resolving a difficult problem if he can exploit it for political gain. After threatening to veto any measure that didn’t include his tough demands, and getting Department of Homeland Security officials to bad-mouth the compromise measures, the president succeeded in getting most Republicans to vote against them, leaving both short of the 60 votes they needed, one by eight votes and one by six.
Minutes later, the Senate even more decisively beat the White House’s own proposal, which would have provided a path to citizenship for the Dreamers while also severely limiting family-based immigration and ending the diversity visa lottery program. The bill fell 21 votes short of the needed 60.
President Trump may need a refresher course in deal-making after the Senate on Thursday rejected his take-it-or-leave-it offer on immigration. He could start by recalling who’s President, and stop giving adviser Stephen Miller a policy veto.
His own blueprint, an obvious nonstarter that included sharp cuts to legal immigration, mustered just 39 votes in the Senate, nearly all Republicans. That’s a telling total, one that mirrors the percentage of Americans who still support him. Of the four immigration measures voted on in the Senate last week, the Trump bill had the least support.
The president, along with Mr. McConnell, is intent on a blame game, not a solution. He suggested no compromises and engaged in no negotiations, preferring to stick with maximalist demands. Despite barely mentioning it as a candidate, Mr. Trump has not budged from insisting on a plan to reduce annual legal immigrants to the United States by hundreds of thousands, to the lowest level in decades.
That’s bad policy for a country with an aging population and an unemployment rate that ranks among the lowest in the industrialized world. More to the point, even if you favor lower levels, it was guaranteed in the context of this debate to doom the dreamers — especially after Democrats had already compromised substantially on the border security that Mr. Trump initially set as his price.
President Trump could have had the immigration bill he promised the nation just a few short weeks ago — the one that protected “Dreamers” and provided money for his “big beautiful wall” on the Mexican border. He could have had a “win” — and some 1.8 million immigrants brought here as children would have a path to citizenship.
But no, the president decided to change the rules in the middle of what has become a game of chance on Capitol Hill. Now nobody wins, even as a March 5 deadline looms on those who come under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Blame one thing only: President’s Trump’s willful sabotage.
By refusing to take yes for an answer, and angrily rejecting a bipartisan deal to save the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program he just weeks ago claimed to invite, the President revealed himself, for the umpteenth time, to be a profoundly unreliable negotiator, and a liar.
We don’t choose the word lightly, but there’s no other honest way to put it.
By Thursday, the president had abandoned all of that thinking. He rejected a compromise proposal in the Senate that reflected much give and take between the parties. The measure would give 1.8 million Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children, a pathway to citizenship. It also includes $25 billion for border security and restrictions on family-based immigration, items among the president’s leading priorities.
The president threatened to veto the proposal. He called it a “total catastrophe.” Even the Department of Homeland Security mobilized, generating a “fact sheet” with the way over-the-top contention that the deal “destroys the ability” of the country to enforce immigration laws.
With the president’s support, a proposal that won a majority, 54 votes, likely would have received the 60 needed to end debate. It would have had a fighting chance in the House. Instead, he played all or nothing, insisting on provisions that would reduce legal immigration by nearly one-half. More, he brought Mitch McConnell and others in the Republican Senate leadership to his side, even as his own plan won just 39 votes.
Perhaps if President Trump got behind it, which, given his actions of late, doesn’t appear likely. Rather, he seems to like falsely proclaiming immigrants to be a national security threat or a costly drag on the economy when they are nothing of the sort, all to appeal to his right-wing base. It was this president who targeted Dreamers, now he’s keeping them living in fear for political advantage. Where is that “bill of love” guy when you really need him?
Generalizations are always dangerous, but it is hard to see how economic circumstances could be driving the current animus against immigration. The unemployment rate is near rock bottom, companies are handing out bonuses thanks to the recent federal tax cut, wages are rising, and economic growth continues to exceed expectations.
On the other hand, the Trump administration has coincided with, and benefited from, a resurgence in ethno-nationalism on the right (which, to be fair, has hardly been unique to the U.S.). The Trump administration’s sympathy for identitarian politics leaves traditional conservatives up against the wall: forced to choose between their president and their principles. Last week they chose the former, which is too bad. Presidents come and go; principles, once abandoned, are hard to recover.
If the anti-immigrant hardliners in the White House think the U.S. Senate is a tough audience, wait until they see how the public would recoil if federal agents round up Dreamers.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky opposed the bipartisan plan to protect Dreamers from deportation while also giving Trump billions to beef up the border. McConnell could have pushed it into the end zone, pressuring the House to act, perhaps even setting the stage for real immigration reform in a nation that has long thrived on the energy of newcomers.