There are, as you may have heard, three entities involved in turning a bill into a law: The House, the Senate and the White House.
That fact, which most of us learned in a civics class in our teen years, appears to have been missed by Senate Democrats in their decision Monday to cut a deal with their Republican counterparts and reopen the government – a deal that continues to look worse with each passing hour.
What Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer allegedly wrung out of his Republican counterpart Mitch McConnell in this agreement was an assurance that the Senate would take up legislation to deal with DACA – the program that allows people brought to the country illegally as children to remain – in the very near future.
OK. Let’s examine that claim first. What McConnell said repeatedly was that it was his “intention” to move to a debate over immigration. Intention is not a promise. And a conversation – and even a “level playing field” (McConnell’s words) on who can offer amendments to an immigration bill – is not a certain vote or a certain victory.
For the sake of argument, say that McConnell is good to his word and some sort of bipartisan consensus emerges around a bill that balances protections for those covered by DACA with ramped-up funding for Trump’s border wall.
The legislation passes the Senate. That’s Step 1.
Step 2 is the House, which, at least until the midterm election this fall, is controlled by Republicans. And which is considerably more conservative ideologically than the Senate.
Already there are signs emerging that any sort of immigration bill that passed the Senate would be dead on arrival in the House.
“The House wasn’t part of that deal,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise told Politico’s Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman on Monday. “It’s good for everybody to put their ideas on paper but ultimately there are things that can and cannot pass in the House. And we have to work through those details and we’re working through them.”
Step 3 is the Trump White House.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders repeatedly refused to answer Monday afternoon whether the White House supports a path to citizenship as part of a DACA deal. On Tuesday morning, in an interview on CNN’s “New Day,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the White House’s willingness to sign onto any DACA deal “depends on what we get in exchange.” He added: “What do we get for border security? What do we get for the wall?”
And, I haven’t even broached President Donald Trump himself! Trump has veered wildly between signaling openness to a comprehensive immigration deal and rejecting Schumer’s offer of border funding last Friday. He seems to be in the latter camp now or, at least he was Tuesday morning.
“Big win for Republicans as Democrats cave on Shutdown,” tweeted Trump. (And, no, I have no idea why “Shutdown” is capitalized either.) “Now I want a big win for everyone, including Republicans, Democrats and DACA, but especially for our Great Military and Border Security. Should be able to get there. See you at the negotiating table!”
The point here is that even in the best case scenario – McConnell is good to his word, immigration legislation passes the Senate – the prognosis for that bill making it through the House and being signed into law by Trump is not at all good.
The Schumer deal reminds me of when the Oklahoma City Thunder traded James Harden to the Houston Rockets. In the immediate aftermath of the deal, you could see ways in which it might maybe make some sense. But, the further you got from the deal – and the better Harden played – the more one-sided, in Houston’s favor, the trade looked.
That’s what this shutdown deal looks like to me. Schumer gave in for the potential promise of a discussion about immigration in the Senate. With no such promise in the House or from the White House.
Is it possible Schumer can make lemonade out of lemons – and then convince the Republican-led House and Trump that this deal is in their interests – between now and February 8? Sure. But, it’s a long shot – and that’s putting it nicely.