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WASHINGTON — In the immigration debate, President Trump had two options before him: 1) make a good-faith effort to reach a compromise on border security and DACA, or 2) keep immigration as a political issue for his base going into the 2018 midterms and 2020.
He chose Door No. 2, at least when it came to the legislation the Senate considered this week.
Think about it: The measure Trump insisted on — the bill by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, which contained cuts to legal immigration in addition to citizenship for DACA recipients — received just 39 of the needed 60 votes to advance; 14 Republicans voted against it. Compare that with the 52 and 54 Senate votes the bipartisan immigration bills received. What’s more, a similar Trump-backed bill in the House, by House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte, appears to lack the votes needed to pass that chamber.
As a result, the ONLY way a bill was going to pass was if it was bipartisan and championed by the president. But what did the Trump administration do? It blasted out this press from the Department of Homeland Security about the legislation with the most bipartisan support: “SCHUMER-ROUNDS-COLLINS DESTROYS ABILITY OF DHS TO ENFORCE IMMIGRATION LAWS, CREATING A MASS AMNESTY FOR OVER 10 MILLION ILLEGAL ALIENS, INCLUDING CRIMINALS.” That’s not a statement from an administration that wants a deal.
Trump could have claimed a policy victory by accepting a bipartisan deal that provided more border security (“I got my wall — or something close to it!”) and that legislatively granted legal status/citizenship to hundreds of thousands of DREAMERs (“I did something Barack Obama couldn’t do!”).
Instead, he and his team chose to push a bill that could muster only 39 Senate votes. That’s a long way from last month’s televised bipartisan meeting on immigration, where Trump said he would rely on lawmakers to come up with a solution. “I think my positions are going to be what the people in this room come up with. I am very much reliant on the people in this room,” he said. “I know most of the people on both sides. I have a lot of respect for the people on both sides. And what I approve is going to be very much reliant on what the people in this room come to me with.”
But the advice that Trump is getting that he and his base NEED immigration as an issue going forward. As Vanity Fair’s Gabe Sherman reported earlier this month, those advising the president “want him to sign an extension for DACA so that immigration is a midterm election issue (the theory being that putting immigration on the ballot will mobilize the base).”
There still is another chance for bipartisan compromise in the Senate
All of that said, there still is a possibility for bipartisan compromise — even after yesterday’s…