Moments after President Trump put forward his newest proposal to end the partial government shutdown, White House officials began pushing the offer as a “common sense compromise” and Democratic lawmakers doubled down on their rejection of the plan–a rejection that began even before the president made his highly anticipated remarks Saturday.
By the time Trump finished his speech, saying he would allow 300,000 immigrants with Temporary Protected Status and 700,000 immigrant recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals to stay for three years in exchange for $5.7 billion for a southern border wall, the proposal was all but dead on arrival.
News broke of the president’s intentions hours before the speech, and Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said Mr. Trump’s plan was a non-starter. Soon after the speech though, White House officials began aggressively making the case that if Democrats reject the president’s offer, their party will be to blame for hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal workers missing more paychecks.
At the White House on Saturday after the speech, Vice President Mike Pence talked to reporters alongside four staff members: Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and White House advisor, Kirstjen Nielsen, the U.S. Homeland Security secretary, Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, and Shahira Knight, the White House legislative director.
They told reporters that President Trump’s offer to allow TPS recipients, who were often allowed into the United States because of disasters in their native countries, and DACA recipients, who are young immigrants brought to the country as minors, was a good faith effort to end the longest shutdown in American history.
“Today’s speech is very much intended to be a good faith proposal incorporating ideas from both political parties to secure our border and end the partial government shutdown,” Pence said. “We have been reaching out to members in the House and the Senate and we are looking forward to taking this legislation forward this coming week.”
He said, as the president did in his remarks, that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell planned to bring the president’s proposal up for a vote on Tuesday and that Senate and White House aides were working on the wording of the bill. Mulvaney added that the onus is now on Democrats to accept the president’s plan.
“If the bill is filibustered on Tuesday, and we do not get a motion to proceed, people will not get paid,” Mulvaney said. “I will be very curious to see how the Democrats–especially in the Senate–choose to deal with this piece of legislation.”
However, long before the president spoke, Democrats in the House and Senate released a flurry of statements insisting the president should vote to reopen the government without border wall funding and continue to negotiate once workers are paid. After the president’s speech, Democratic leaders made their rejection of the offer official.
“There’s only one way out: open up the government, Mr. President, and then Democrats and Republicans can have a civil discussion and come up with bipartisan solutions,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “It was the President who single-handedly took away DACA and TPS protections in the first place – offering some protections back in exchange for the wall is not a compromise but more hostage taking.”
Pelosi also made clear that she was not in favor of the president’s plan in a statement. “His proposal is a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives, each of which is unacceptable and in total, do not represent a good faith effort to restore certainty to people’s lives,” she said.
“It is unlikely that any one of these provisions alone would pass the House, and taken together, they are a non-starter.”
Pence said White House officials have been speaking to “rank and file” congressional Democrats and offered to extend TPS and DACA because of those conversations. The move, to talk to rank and file Democrats, is an attempt by Republicans to get some Democrats to break ranks with Schumer and Pelosi.
Despite those efforts, a number of immigration activists and advocacy groups accused the president of pitting immigrant families against each other by arguing that the president is offering to allow younger immigrants to remain in the country while moving to deport their parents or keep out their relatives. Others said the president, who has moved to end both DACA and TPS, was trying to give back things he had taken away.
Saturday, the NewsHour asked Pence why immigrants should trust President Trump, who once accused Haitians of bringing AIDS to the United States and who said immigrants from places like Haiti and Nigeria came from “s—hole countries.” The vice president said Trump should be trusted because he was offering to extend TPS and DACA in order to reopen the government.
Still, many Democrats say they simply don’t find the president credible.
“There was no government shutdown crisis before Trump created it,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, chief public affairs officer for MoveOn.org. “There was no DACA crisis before Trump created it. There was no TPS crisis before Trump created it. Trump creates fake crises to come up with fake deals. Democrats shouldn’t play this game with Trump.”
Meanwhile, some conservative voices also condemned President Trump’s proposal. Ann Coulter, a conservative author, tweeted that she believed the president was allowing too many immigrants to remain in the United States.
“Trump proposes amnesty. We voted for Trump and got Jeb,” Coulter tweeted. “100 miles of border wall in exchange for amnestying millions of illegals. So if we grant citizenship to a BILLION foreigners, maybe we can finally get a full border wall.”
During the White House meeting with reporters Saturday, Pence pushed back on Coulter’s assertion. “This is not an amnesty bill,” the vice president said. “There is no amnesty in the president’s proposal. There is no pathway to citizenship in this proposal.”
Kushner also weighed in. “I think the president feels like the country is tired of posturing on both sides,” he said. “He thinks there are a lot of reasonable people who want to see a compromise that moves us forward.”
Kushner added that the president would like to have bipartisan meetings about immigration reform after his proposal is passed and hopes that a deal to open to government can serve as a first step to broader immigration changes.
“He’s spoken many times about the Dreamers in different ways and I think he would like to see our immigration system fixed,” Kushner said of Trump.
However, Mulvaney also made it clear that the president remains open to declaring a national emergency if Democrats and Republicans cannot reach a deal to reopen the government.
“I absolutely still believe that a national emergency is still a tool that is available to the president but, he’s been candid and very public in saying, it’s not his preferred course of action,” he said. “The best way to fix this is through legislation.”