Originally published by Politico
House Democrats are prepared to threaten a government shutdown in December unless Congress adopts protections for Dreamers, a senior member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said Friday.
Hours after Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) voted for a three-month government funding deal that he had lambasted his party’s leaders for striking with President Donald Trump, he suggested that top Democrats are prepared to take a stronger stand once that deal expires. Gutierrez said Democratic leaders ceded leverage they could have used to help undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children.
We will shut it down or let Republicans keep it open with their own votes, Gutierrez told Dreamers and immigration activists gathered on Capitol Hill on Friday. He and every other House Democrat had just voted for the funding package that also includes aid for Hurricane Harvey victims.
The vast majority of members in the Democratic Caucus are ready to say, if there is no pathway forward for Dreamers, then there is no government for anyone,” Gutierrez said.
But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is still laser focused on securing protections for Dreamers this month, her spokesman told POLITICO.
We cannot leave this session of Congress without passing the DREAM Act,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said, referencing a bipartisan bill that offers Dreamers a pathway to citizenship. “The Leader believes we can do this in September and it’s her top priority. Ninety Republicans refusing to vote for emergency Hurricane aid today gives us leverage and we plan to use it.
The disaster relief package lawmakers sent to the president Friday raises the debt limit and funds the government through Dec. 8, setting up another nasty fiscal fight just before the holidays. Democrats, who typically supply the necessary votes in such battles and therefore have significant leverage, plan to use the showdown to pressure Republicans to support a legislative fix for Dreamers if needed.
The White House announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program earlier this week, with a six-month delay to give lawmakers time to find a legislative solution.
Gutierrez has been the most outspoken opponent of the deal Democratic leaders struck with Trump – saying Democrats gave up any leverage they had to get a legislative fix for Dreamers this month – but several other Democrats were privately fuming about the plan earlier this week.
Still, after a lengthy conversation with Pelosi on the floor Friday, he and every other Democrat supported the legislation. Gutierrez later said his talk with Pelosi signaled to him that she would be open to withholding Democratic votes in December if the issue isn’t resolved.
But the idea of flirting with a possible government shutdown – or at least forcing Republicans to come up with a majority of the votes – to push for action on DACA isn’t new.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) suggested at a private party caucus meeting earlier this week that Democrats withhold their votes for a short-term spending bill later this month unless Republicans would signal they were ready to deal on DACA. He received a standing ovation.
Hours later, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced they’d struck a deal with Trump to keep the government funded until Dec. 8.
Pelosi later said Trump indicated to her that he’d be willing to sign some version of the DREAM Act, though he would also want some border tightening provisions as part of a deal.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), another of the party’s biggest proponents of the DREAM legislation, also indicated as much on Friday: The bill is unlikely to make it to Trump’s desk without addressing border security and other Republican priorities.
Assuming that there’s some enforcement attached to a bill helping Dreamers, Grijalva said, right now I could comfortably tell you I couldn’t support that. But at that crucible point, we’re talking about humanity versus [a trade-off] – it’ll be a different point.
Gutierrez and others are also looking to other options to win passage of the DREAM Act before government funding expires in December. Hoyer and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) kicked off one effort Thursday night, relying on a complicated parliamentary procedure that could – if successful – force a vote on the bill in the coming weeks.
But the move, known as a discharge petition, requires a majority of lawmakers to sign on first, meaning at least 24 Republicans would have to buck their leaders and back the Democratic-led effort. While not entirely impossible, discharge petitions are rarely successful for this reason.
Meanwhile, Senate Democratic leaders are signaling openness to negotiations with the GOP about a legislative framework that could secure a bipartisan vote on helping Dreamers.
“I think what you’ll find – I know what you’ll find – is that starting next week there is going to be a more specific conversation,” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a chief author of the DREAM Act, said Thursday. “We’re going to get into some ideas.”
Read more: www.politico.com/story/2017/09/08/democrats-dreamers-daca-government-shutdown-242502
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