My initial reaction to the deal that ended the partial government shutdown was that Chuck Schumer caved and that the deal was a big win for Republicans. That’s the conventional view shared by, to name just a few, Brit Hume, Marc Thiessen, and Ben Shapiro .
However, I’m no longer sure this was a true victory for Republicans, at least those of the conservative variety. The Democrats may have received more than they are getting credit for, and they may be able to parlay what they got into a win, or at least a draw, down the road.
As I understand it, the Democrats got a promise from Mitch McConnell to allow a vote in the coming weeks on DACA and other immigration matters. McConnell also said there will be a level playing field in the debate over such legislation.
What kind of immigration bill, if any, will emerge from a Senate with a level playing field? Probably not the kind conservatives like Tom Cotton are advocating.
Keep in mind that Senate Republicans are, as a group, immigration squishes. Not that long ago, the Senate, with plenty of GOP support, passed an amnesty bill that extended not just to “Dreamers,” but to almost all illegal immigrants. Most of the Republicans who supported this amnesty are still in the Senate.
Thus, I doubt the Senate will pass a bill that funds the wall and ends chain migration and/or the diversity lottery in exchange for protecting the DACA population. If the Senate passes anything, the legislation more likely will protect the DACA population in exchange for funding the wall in some fashion, and nothing more.
If he wanted to, McConnell could wiggle out of any promise he made in order to avoid the passage of such legislation. But there’s no reason to believe he would want to. McConnell certainly is not a government shutdown fan. He is a fan of regular order and debate in the Senate — letting the Senate do its thing. Moreover, he’d probably be fine with a deal that trades DACA amnesty for wall funding.
A squishy Senate bill could also command majority support in the House. The question is whether Paul Ryan would block the bill, given that it would lack majority Republican support. He might. But Ryan is a fan of amnesty (though he bristles when this word is used). Conservatives probably should not pin their hopes on Paul Ryan.
They probably shouldn’t pin them on President Trump, either. During the televised immigration love fest with congressional leaders earlier this month, he said he would sign whatever DACA legislation Congress sends him, as long as it funds his wall. He also indicated that amnesty for the DACA population in exchange for the wall is the compromise he has in mind.
Moreover, according to the Washington Post, during the weekend shutdown Trump was eager to make a deal with Schumer in order to avoid/end a shutdown. Reportedly, it was McConnell who talked him into hanging tough.
The reality, I think, is that Trump would be delighted with an arrangement that protects the DACA population (an “act of love,” he calls this); that avoids a shutdown (the president doesn’t like shutdowns, nor should he); and that enables him to save face on the wall (a core element of his campaign and one he feels, correctly, he needs to deliver on).
Thus, I think Rich Lowry has it right when he says:
There’s still a good chance that Democrats can force a bad DACA deal, given that the GOP is divided on immigration and Trump might be tempted to sign up for anything as long as there’s notional funding for a Wall.
But even if we are headed for an “amnesty in exchange for a wall deal,” there is still plenty to resolve. What kind of amnesty will the DACA population get? Will it include a path to citizenship? If so, how long will the path be? Will the bill provide protection for the parents of the DACA population?
And what will the wall provisions look like? How much funding will there be? What kind of potential litigation barriers will Durbin and Graham be to erect?
If the Dems win these battles, they will win the war. If not, the outcome will be something like a draw, but one that perhaps boosts Trump’s standing and thus may be a political victory for Republicans.
This much seems clear, though. The fight has only just begun.