WASHINGTON — House Democrats are weighing a potential effort to shut down the federal government at the end of the year if a vote to protect certain recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is not on the table.
In an interview with The Washington Post on Monday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi did not rule out withholding key budget votes if Republicans do not bring the DREAM Act, which protects undocumented immigrants who were raised in the United States, to the floor in December.
However, Pelosi suggested there are still plenty of options before a shutdown would become the strategy.
“I fully intend to use every possibility, but we’re not at that place yet,” she said. “Right now, we’re trying to get Republicans to vote on what we believe.”
Pelosi, along with other Democrats in the party leadership, suggested many of the White House’s outlined border security plans released Sunday were nonstarters.
The administration is now demanding funding for a wall along the US-Mexico border and tougher stances on unaccompanied minors travelling into the US. The plan would also crack down on so-called “sanctuary cities” that refused to enforce federal immigration laws and would require the E-verify program for employers in order to ensure undocumented immigrants are not hired.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, of Maryland, told reporters Tuesday that Democrats’ priority is solving the issue before the new year.
“We’re pretty focused on getting it done this year,” Hoyer said. “We don’t think we ought to go into next year with a short time frame to go. There’s no reason, not a single defensible reason why this is not done within the next month or two.”
Hoyer also shrugged off the possibility that the new proposed border security measures might be an initial bluff and that some of the demands could be rolled back at a later date. Hoyer said he was not sure whether it was Trump calling for the increased security provisions or if it was the work of White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, who he called “a very hardline guy.”
“President Trump ought to decide what he thinks,” Hoyer said. “He either thinks these are positive folks who ought to be taken care of, which is what he has implied in public statements — he loves these people he said.”
And Michelle Lujan Grisham, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, told Business Insider that while looking at the possibility of a shutdown might be premature, handling the issue of undocumented immigrants must come first.
“Our drop dead date is really about making sure that we are clear that by the December must-do legislation, that if we’re really gonna deal with that in a productive way, than you need to get these issues so that we can have earnest and open discussions and debates about the debt ceiling, about the [continuing resolution], about the omnibus, about everything else that’s coming,” she said. “And you don’t do that very effectively if we haven’t dealt with the DREAM Act.”
Grisham also suggested that the new border security demands mean Trump could have reneged on his deal with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“I fear that it’s not just a negotiating strategy, but maybe Trump thinks it is,” she said.
But Grisham also cautioned that a deal could still be reached in Congress to pass the DREAM Act or a version of it.
“For us it’s still really positive and frankly, I don’t wanna wait till [next year] — the Hispanic caucus, the minority caucuses, the Democratic caucus — we’d like this done now,” she said.
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