Sat | Feb 16, 2019

Democrats aren't buying Trump's shutdown-ending 'compromise' - Pence optimistic about plan

Published:Monday | January 21, 2019 | 12:00 AM
President Donald Trump pauses while speaking about the partial government shutdown, immigration and border security in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, in Washington, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019.

WASHINGTON (AP):

In a bid to break the shutdown stalemate, President Donald Trump offered to extend temporary protections for young people brought to the US illegally as children and those fleeing disaster zones in exchange for his long-promised border wall. However, although Trump cast the move as a "common-sense compromises," Democrats were quick to dismiss it as a "non-starter".

With polls showing a majority of Americans blaming him and Republicans for the impasse, Trump said from the White House that he was there "to break the logjam and provide Congress with a path forward to end the government shutdown and solve the crisis on the southern borders."

However, Trump did not budge on his US$5.7-billion demand for the wall and, in essence, offered to temporarily roll back some of his own hawkish immigration actions - actions that have been blocked by federal courts.

Democrats dismissed Trump's proposal ahead of his televised speech after reports of his prepared remarks were published. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the expected offer was nothing more than "a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives" and that the effort could not pass the House.

"What is original in the president's proposal is not good. What is good in the proposal is not original," she later tweeted.

Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, also panned the proposal as "more hostage taking", saying that it was Trump who had "single-handedly" imperilled the future of the immigrants he proposed to help.

Reacting to the cool reception, Trump fired a flurry of tweets Saturday morning lashing out at Pelosi personally. He accused her, without evidence, of having "behaved so irrationally" and moving "so far to the left that she has now officially become a Radical Democrat".

Yesterday, he also appeared to threaten to target millions of people living in the country illegally if he did not eventually get his way, writing, "There will be no big push to remove the 11,000,000 plus people who are here illegally - but be careful Nancy!"

Trump had sought to cast his plan as a bipartisan way forward and said Saturday's proposal had incorporated ideas from "rank-and-file" Democrats, even as top Democrats made clear they had not been consulted. Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, will bring the legislation to a vote tomorrow - a move that will force Democrats who oppose the idea to vote against reopening the government as hundreds of thousands of federal workers remain without pay. Tuesday is also the deadline for the next federal pay period.

"If the bill is filibustered on Tuesday ... people will not get paid," said White House acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.

McConnell had previously stated that no vote should be held in the Senate until Trump and Democrats agreed on a bill.

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Vice-President Mike Pence said President Donald Trump had "set the table for a deal that will address the crisis on our border, secure our border and give us a pathway" to reopening the government. He also said he was optimistic the plan would begin to gain traction after McConnell brings it to the Senate floor on Tuesday - though it's unclear whether it can pass.

Trump's plan seems to stand little chance of getting the 60 votes needed in the Senate. Senator Chris Coons, D-Del, whom the White House has looked to as a possible partner on immigration negotiations, said he will not support it. And another key centrist, Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she would study the details of the plan but did not commit to voting for it.

Trump's remarks from the Diplomatic Room marked the second time he has addressed the nation as the partial shutdown drags on. And this time, he sought to strike a diplomatic tone, emphasising the need to work across the aisle.

But the plan drew criticism from both the left and the right.

"Trump proposes amnesty," tweeted conservative firebrand Ann Coulter. "We voted for Trump and got Jeb!" she said, in a reference to Trump's 2016 rival, Jeb Bush.

Trump objected.

"No, Amnesty is not a part of my offer," he tweeted. Still, he said he would be open to using "amnesty" on "a much bigger deal, whether on immigration or something else". Many, including Pence, have defined the word 'amnesty' as permanent status or a pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally.

In exchange for wall funding, Trump said he would extend temporary protections for three years for "Dreamers," young people brought to the country illegally as children. Administration officials said the protections would apply only to the approximately 700,000 people currently enrolled in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the Obama-era program shielding them from deportation, and not all those who came to the U.S. as children. The plan would offer no pathway to citizenship for those immigrants a deal breaker for many Democrats.

Trump also proposed a three-year extension to the temporary protected status the U.S. offers to immigrants fleeing countries affected by natural disasters or violence. Officials said the exemption would apply to about 300,000 people who currently live in the U.S. under the program. That means people from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Haiti countries that saw the status revoked since Trump took office would get a reprieve.

Trump had repeatedly dismissed the idea of a deal involving Dreamers in recent weeks, saying he would prefer to see first whether DACA survives a court challenge.