The Stew Reporting from inside the Beltway

DACA’s wild week

Politics | Lawmakers are hopeful for an immigration deal, despite ongoing disagreement over details
by Evan Wilt
Posted 1/11/18, 03:32 pm

WASHINGTON—Lawmakers appear closer than ever to agreeing on an immigration bill with a solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Here’s where the debate stands after a topsy-turvy few days.

More than 20 lawmakers from both parties sat down with President Donald Trump on Tuesday to define terms and determine what kind of deal the president would sign. The group left with four areas to work on: border security, chain migration, the visa lottery system, and DACA.

Hours later, a federal judge in California ruled against the Trump administration, ordering it to allow some DACA recipients to reapply for protected status. But thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children still risk deportation after March 5 if Congress does nothing. Lawmakers say they’re closing in on a deal.

The president made the task more difficult last weekend after he insisted the DACA deal include a border wall, with a price tag of $18 billion over the next decade.

Both parties are willing to include new border security measures in the bill but aren’t sold on Trump’s plan.

“I support the border security but I do have more questions about the cost,” Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., told me. “The proposal is roughly, by my math, about $25 million a mile.”

Kennedy thinks the wall could be cheaper and wants to make sure taxpayers get the best deal possible.

Democrats continue to say they support new border security measures but stop short of supporting the wall.

“We think the wall is stupid—it’s a waste of money,” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., told me. “Especially since the president said Mexico would pay for it, why would we want to break his promise? Let him find funding from Mexico.”

Trump maintains he wants a wall, an intractable request given an immigration bill needs Democratic votes to pass. But the definition of “wall” continues to shift, leaving room for a compromise.

The president said Tuesday large stretches of the border wouldn’t need a wall since rivers and mountains create natural barriers. GOP leaders also remain confident Trump will sign whatever bill they are able to pass. During his meeting with lawmakers, the president said he would “take the heat” if some voters don’t like the final product.

In the lower chamber, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., vowed he would not bring forward an immigration bill without consensus from members. In spite of that, Republican Reps. Michael McCaul of Texas, Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, Raúl Labrador of Idaho, and Martha McSally of Arizona released their own plan Wednesday, likely only to appease immigration hardliners.

The Securing America’s Future Act outlines a $30 billion package for the border wall, new technology, and hiring more border patrol agents. It also would allow DACA beneficiaries to apply for a three-year renewable legal status without a pathway to citizenship. On Wednesday evening the White House signaled it would support the bill, but it likely won’t draw support from moderate Republicans and Democrats.

With nearly 800,000 DACA recipients at risk, evangelicals continue to pressure lawmakers to set aside differences and find a solution quickly.

But both political parties still have to reconcile key differences on what border security measures are palatable in order to move forward.

“The problem is the Democrats want all the dessert and they don’t want to eat any spinach,” Kennedy said.

Associated Press/Photo by Andrew Harnik Associated Press/Photo by Andrew Harnik Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Feinstein under fire

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Tuesday published more than 300 pages of the transcript from the Senate Judiciary Committee’s interview with Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, who commissioned the Trump-Russia dossier. Feinstein’s unilateral decision to release the documents drew the ire of her colleagues and President Trump.

Much of the dossier, compiled by a British intelligence officer and funded in part by the Hillary Clinton campaign, has not been corroborated. The opposition research about then-candidate Trump and his connections with Russia fell into the hands of the FBI in the summer of 2016. Some Trump supporters blame the dossier for inciting the Russia presidential election interference probe.

Feinstein is the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee but did not give chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, a heads-up before releasing the transcript. 

An angry Grassley said he was “confounded” by the decision and feared Feinstein’s action would discourage future witnesses in the Russia investigation from sharing information with the panel.

But by Wednesday Grassley had simmered down, saying Feinstein does not owe him an apology because he makes mistakes all the time.

Trump wasn’t as forgiving.

“The fact that Sneaky Dianne Feinstein, who has on numerous occasions stated that collusion between Trump/Russia has not been found, would release testimony in such an underhanded and possibly illegal way, totally without authorization, is a disgrace,” the president tweeted Wednesday.

Feinstein did not do anything illegal, but she said Wednesday she should have worked more closely with Grassley.

As for her new nickname, Feinstein remains unfazed. “He tends to call people names very quickly, so I’m not alone,” she told reporters. —E.W.

HarperCollins Publishers HarperCollins Publishers J.D. Vance

Hillbilly for Senate?

Republicans are courting Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance to launch a U.S. Senate campaign in Ohio this year. Josh Mandel, who was the front-runner for the GOP nomination, announced last week he would end his bid amid a health issue involving his wife. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., phoned Vance about launching a campaign to replace Mandel and challenge Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown in the 2018 election, according to Politico. On Wednesday, BuzzFeed News reported Vance is seriously considering running and has held meetings to gauge interest. WORLD named Hillbilly Elegy its 2016 Book of the Year in the Understanding America category. The memoir about the rural values of Vance’s upbringing has been described as a road map to understanding President Donald Trump’s support among white, working-class voters. —E.W.

Delivering a pro-life vote

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., announced Tuesday that lawmakers will vote on pro-life legislation in time for next week’s March for Life. If passed, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Act would require healthcare practitioners, under penalty of imprisonment, to try to save babies born alive during abortion procedures. “This bill states simply that if a baby is born after a failed abortion attempt, he or she should be given the same medical care as a baby born any other way,” McCarthy said in a statement. The 45th annual March for Life takes place Friday, Jan. 19, in Washington, D.C. Pro-lifers gather in the nation’s capital each January close to the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade decision. —E.W.

Big money

Tom Steyer, a billionaire climate activist who launched a viral campaign to impeach President Trump, said this week he’s not running for office but plans to boost the Democrats who do. The megadonor said he’ll target 24 Republican-held House districts and would help defend vulnerable Democrats in 10 swing states in 2018. Steyer plans to pipe $30 million into this year’s campaigns—hoping Democrats can regain majorities in Congress. The environmentalist has funneled more than $100 million into political campaigns since the beginning of 2016. He doesn’t plan to end his crusade to impeach Trump and instead will redouble his effort, adding an “engagement” push for voters. —E.W.

Evan Wilt

Evan is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Washington, D.C.

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Comments

  • Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Thu, 01/11/2018 08:39 pm

    We will be committing a national sin if we prevent people who came here as children from becoming citizens.  What God-given right do we have to tell people that they are not welcome in the only place that they know as home?

  • Laura W
    Posted: Fri, 01/12/2018 07:06 pm

    My first thought was to agree that that's a little harsh. But the way it's currently proposed, it sounds like it's renewable indefinitely, which means there wouldn't be a need to answer all the questions about citizenship right away. My guess is that trying to go for too much all at once would risk having the bill stall out and leave them with nothing. Taking it in stages would also give the legislators time to think through how it could be done without opening up too much potential for abuse.

  • Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Fri, 01/12/2018 10:06 pm

    Laura W, I agree with you that making their legal status indefinitely renewable is a step in the right direction.  I would vote for a bill that allowed that, if full citizenship were politically infeasible.  I would keep pushing for full citizenship, though.  I do not understand why any Christ-follower would want to place innocents in limbo.

  • Bob C
    Posted: Fri, 01/12/2018 02:05 pm

    $18 billion for a board security system on the USA/Mexico border, which is 6,411 miles long, is $2,807,674 a mile, while an insanely high cost, not near $25 million a mile. Senator Kennedy needs to get a new calculator.   

  • OldMike
    Posted: Fri, 01/12/2018 08:03 pm

    The border is actually a bit less than 2000 miles. When I Googled it, I also got the 6411 figure but like this: 6411’0” miles. Not sure exactly what that’s supposed to mean. But Wikipedia in one place says border is 1951 miles, in another 1989 miles; National Geographic Society says 1954 miles. 

    And yes, whatever mileage Kennedy used, his math is way off. If total actually will be $18 Billion, per mile will be a bit over $9 million. Still too high, imo. Also to be considered, there are several hundred (some sources say 600) miles with some type of wall or fence already erected. This could have entered into Kennedy’s figures. 

    I agree some path for citizenship needs to be available for illegals who were brought in as children. 

  • JerryM
    Posted: Fri, 01/12/2018 05:50 pm

    Can Feinstein, or her aids, be that careless?  This seems more like a strategic democratic effort to chill future testimony.

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