WASHINGTON — Not gonna work.
President Donald Trump on Saturday offered to trade funding for a permanent southern border wall for temporary protections for “Dreamers,” a deal he — or son-in-law Jared Kushner — could easily have known will not pass the Senate, and therefore will not quickly lead to ending the partial federal government shutdown.
The term Dreamers refers to illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as youths, breaking the law through no fault of their own. Eighteen years ago, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., launched what became the movement to give legal status to Dreamers.
In 2017, Trump yanked Obama-era protections for Dreamers. And because Congress did not pass laws to legalize their status, Trump for now is able to use Dreamers as hostages, pawns, to trade for his wall — the one Mexico was supposed to pay for.
Kushner, a senior White House adviser, and Vice President Mike Pence have been up on Capitol Hill trying to find a deal to solve the month-long shutdown impasse. Last week, they huddled in the office of Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
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Kushner has developed a close relationship with Durbin.
Last month I wrote about how they started to get to know each other after Trump took office in 2017. It’s been productive. Durbin and Kushner paved the way for the historic bipartisan federal prison sentencing overhaul measure Trump signed last year.
I also reported about how Durbin has been over for dinner at the Kalorama home of Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, another White House senior adviser.
They have a line a communication. Durbin is the lead Senate Democrat on immigration. They talk.
So it’s puzzling that Kushner blindsided Durbin about the package Trump put on the table on Saturday.
“Senator Durbin was not involved. He learned about it through press reports,” Durbin communications chief Emily Hampsten told me.
Durbin and Kushner — because of their ability to talk to each other and their success at bargaining — may be the ones to figure out how to end the shutdown stalemate.
Durbin — as does House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat — wants to first reopen all of federal government, and then negotiate.
Durbin said in a statement just before Trump’s afternoon speech: “First, President Trump and Senate Majority Leader McConnell must open the government today. Second, I cannot support the proposed offer as reported and do not believe it can pass the Senate. Third, I am ready to sit down at any time after the government is opened and work to resolve all outstanding issues.”
Trump wants $5.7 billion for a steel barrier, a non-starter in the House, now under Democratic control. Democrats have long agreed to spend more money to secure the border and pay for more agents; drug detection resources; humanitarian relief and immigration court judges.
Trump offered a three-year protection plan for those already holding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — known as DACA — and Temporary Protected Status recipients who are too old to be eligible for DACA.
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McConnell, in charge of the GOP-run Senate, said Saturday he will call a vote on Trump’s legislation in the coming days.
To win, however, Senate Republicans need 60 votes. Since they number only 53, they will have a hard time finding the seven Democrats they need. The most vulnerable Democratic senators either lost re-election in November or are locked into another term and are insulated from pressure.
Noted Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.,“The Senate already voted unanimously to prevent the needless Trump Shutdown without wasting billions on the most expensive and least effective way to secure our border: Trump’s wall.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., on Saturday called for Democrats to make a counteroffer.
Freshman Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, D-Ill., said in a statement, that Trump’s proposal “is a sham. It fails to bring 800,000 public employees back to work and it fails to address permanent solutions to DACA and TPS.”
Said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Trump “knows the likelihood of his weak proposal being passed by the House and Senate is farfetched.”