Clash Over Young Immigrants Hangs Over Year-End Budget Talks

  • Senate talks to marry border security, immigration fix falters
  • Cornyn says protections for ‘Dreamers’ not likely until 2018
The Shutdown Showdown Looming in Washington

The likelihood of a government shutdown before year’s end is increasing after Senate negotiations stalled over plans to provide deportation protection for 800,000 young undocumented immigrants.

John Cornyn of Texas, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican leader, said Monday that talks with Senate Democrats over combining new border security measures and deportation protections are at an impasse. Cornyn said he sees little chance for resolution before the year is over, pushing the matter into early 2018.

He also told reporters that “no way” would he back combining such a package with a must-pass year-end spending deal designed to keep the government open, a key demand of Democrats to get their needed support to move it through the Senate.

Speaking on the Senate floor, he accused Democrats of a “hysterical and cynical ploy” of threatening to trigger a shutdown over the matter. Republicans are angling for a two-week stop-gap measure to get past a Dec. 8 deadline when agency spending authority lapses, with the potential for a second such measure later in the month that extends into January. Democrats haven’t agreed to those terms.

Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democratic leader, said later that he continues to insist that Congress act this year to address the needs of the young immigrants, brought to the U.S. by their parents when they were children. Their deportation protections were put in place by President Barack Obama and temporarily extended by Trump until early March. Ending them will affect 1,000 young people each day over two years if the deadline is reached, Durbin said.

“I want it done this year,” Durbin said. “This calendar year.”

Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, who supports extending the protections, said it still may be possible to strike a deal before the end of the year. But he said he was unsure about whether it could be tied to the funding measure.

The protection for the those covered by Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, has been up in the air throughout the first year of Trump’s presidency. Trump in September agreed with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California to move a border security bill by year’s end, and pair it with protections for the immigrants. He has since backed away from it.

A Senate Democratic aide familiar with the negotiations said that Republicans proposed a plan for a dramatic increase for border resources, some cuts to the number of legal immigrants and only temporary protections for the young immigrants. Durbin put forth a counter proposal with more modest border resources, combined with a permanent DACA fix and a pathway to citizenship for the immigrants.

The immigration discussions are sure to come up at a planned Thursday White House meeting on a year-end deal that leaders of both parties plan to attend.

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