Jan 21, 2019

Trump fails to woo Democrats

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

In the 24 hours since Trump offered his immigration proposal, not a single Democrat has publicly expressed openness to it.

What they're saying: Senior White House officials told Axios their strategy — conceived largely by Jared Kushner and Vice President Mike Pence — was to get Trump's "compromise" immigration bill through the Senate with an overwhelming vote and then pressure House Democrats to break from Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

But the Democrats have a consensus: No immigration talks until the government is back open. Even the moderates who sometimes break with the party, including Sens. Joe Manchin and Chris Coons, are sticking with leadership on this, for now at least.

  • White House officials and Republicans close to leadership have privately admitted to Axios, since Trump's Saturday announcement, that they don't see how they win over the seven Senate Democrats they need to support this bill.
  • Democrats are blunt. Steve Elmendorf, one of the top Democratic lobbyists in Washington D.C., told Axios, "Why would any Senate Democrat vote for a bill that was not negotiated with any Senate Democrat?" (Kushner and Pence consulted Democrats, but they weren't at the negotiating table; this is a Trump offer.)
  • "I think it's totally impossible," Elmendorf said, when asked if he saw any chance of seven Senate Democrats backing Trump's offer.
  • "This could be a basis to have a meeting. ... He should have another meeting and present this offer, and let them talk about what they're willing to do."

During a meeting with reporters at the White House yesterday, Pence and Kushner acknowledged they've been talking to "rank and file" Democrats and tried to incorporate some of the things they want in the president's shutdown proposal. That's how they got the idea to add DACA and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) protections, Pence said.

  • But so far, their plan to divide Democrats hasn't worked.

Right-wing immigration restrictionists — part of Trump's base — are bashing the president for his offer. Ann Coulter tweeted yesterday: "Trump proposes amnesty. We voted for Trump and got Jeb!"

  • But some Trump allies say they're comfortable with attacks from Trump's right.
  • Marc Short, the former White House director of legislative affairs, told Axios: "The president saying he'll extend DACA by three years and TPS by three years is a more substantial concession than Pelosi saying she'll fund a few more judges. ... When you're being attacked by the right and the left, then you often know you've found more middle ground."

What's next: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to bring the president's proposal to the floor this week. But even if he somehow gets it out of the Senate, it looks dead on arrival in the House.

  • Meanwhile, Pelosi will move a series of bills to reopen the government — with about $1 billion extra in border spending (though not for a barrier) — and these are equally DOA. in McConnell's Senate, because Trump won't sign them if they don't have money for his wall.

The bottom line: On Day 30 of the shutdown, the White House and Congress don't look remotely close to striking a deal to reopen 25% of the government. And if they can't pass something by Friday, hundreds of thousands of federal workers will miss another paycheck.

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