politics

Hispanic Caucus Clashes With Schumer Over ‘Dreamers’ Delay

Chuck Schumer Photographer: Aaron P. Bernstein/Bloomberg

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is taking heat from members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus for splitting with House Democrats over demands that deportation protections for 800,000 undocumented immigrants, known as "dreamers," be included in any year-end spending deal.

More than a dozen House Democrats belonging to the group came unannounced to Schumer’s Capitol office on Thursday afternoon, demanding to talk to him about their concerns that he isn’t urging Senate Democrats to vote down the spending bill, which will prevent a government shutdown at midnight Friday. They say he agreed to push more Senate Democrats to do so, but there’s no indication that would spark an actual failure of the bill.

“Our expectation is that there will be a significant group of senators on the Democratic side that will not support the CR,” Representative Raul Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat, said afterward, referring to the “continuing resolution” that will keep the government operating. Grijalva said he didn’t know if any new "no" votes might threaten the measure, but added that Schumer told them he doesn’t want Democrats to be blamed for a government shutdown.

Matt House, a spokesman for Schumer, declined to comment about the meeting.

Schumer said this week that he wouldn’t get in the way of a simple short-term extension of government spending if key issues that might have been attached to the must-pass bill -- including the deportation protections, a reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, and a veterans health program renewal -- all are attached to a second must-pass January bill. That measure likely will include the actual budgets of agencies for this fiscal year.

His decision could retain leverage for Democrats in talks about what might be added, and also helps prevent a government shutdown before Christmas and partisan sniping over who was to blame. Some Senate Democrats facing re-election in 2018 from Republican-leaning states have shown little appetite for that.

Still, it’s led to a week of protests by young immigrants at offices of Senate Democrats, and a sit-in at a Senate cafeteria that led police to close it for the day. Schumer has been taking the opposite tack of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who in a letter to House Democrats this week urged them to vote against the spending bill because their priorities aren’t being addressed.

The intra-party tension comes four months after Schumer and Pelosi secured a deal with President Donald Trump to combine deportation protections for the young immigrants with a border security package. Trump later backed away from the agreement, which would have addressed needs of young undocumented immigrants who are covered by an executive order signed by President Barack Obama that shields them from expulsion. The protections under the order, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, expire in early March under a short extension by Trump.

Bipartisan talks in the Senate for a broader immigration compromise could yield legislation addressing needs of the immigrants as early as next month, but it’s prospects aren’t clear.

Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham, a New Mexico Democrat who chairs the Hispanic Caucus, insisted a bigger block of "no" votes on the spending bill would help show greater solidarity and push a solution forward.

“What we stressed to the senator is we need more senators voting with us,” she told reporters. “We are growing the support to make sure the issues that we care about get addressed.”

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