WASHINGTON – In a bid to put pressure on Democrats, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the GOP leader, plans this week to bring up legislation to immediately reopen the government and incorporate President Donald Trump’s proposal to offer temporary protections to some immigrants in exchange for $5.7 billion for his border wall, a top aide to McConnell said Sunday.
By coupling government funding with the plan Trump unveiled Saturday, McConnell — who has until now stayed on the sidelines in the shutdown debate — is hoping to shift blame for the shutdown to Democrats, who have said repeatedly that they will not negotiate over border security until the government is fully open.
But there was no indication from Democrats on Sunday that they would abandon that position. And some doubted that McConnell would even bring legislation to the floor because of pressure from conservative critics who regard Trump’s proposal as amnesty for those who came to the United States illegally.
Polls show the public largely blames Trump for the shutdown, and his advisers have been searching for an exit strategy. In an address from the White House on Saturday, Trump offered to restore the temporary protections he took away from certain unauthorized immigrants, including the young people known as Dreamers, and those from Latin American and African countries, in exchange for border wall funding.
But Democrats, who want permanent protections for those immigrants, have denounced the plan as “hostage taking,” saying Trump is only offering to give back what he himself took away.
“If he opens up the government, we’ll discuss whatever he offers, but hostage taking should not work,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, told reporters in New York before McConnell’s aide spoke. “The American people are overwhelmingly against it. The president’s polling ratings are plummeting because even his own supporters agree that this is a bad tactic and it’s very hard to negotiate when a gun is held to your head.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called Trump’s offer “an effort to save face and provide talking points,” adding, “We ought to be reopening the government and then debating the details of border security.”
The McConnell aide, Don Stewart, said the GOP package would include seven appropriations bills to fund government agencies that have been partly closed for a month, as well as disaster relief.
“The legislation that the majority leader will bring to the floor this week would both reopen the remaining portions of the government, fund disaster relief, fund border security and address immigration issues that both Republicans and Democrats would like to address — all in one bill,” Stewart said.
The back and forth over the contours of Senate legislation came as Trump defended his proposal to end the shutdown, using his Twitter account to attack Speaker Nancy Pelosi for turning down the offer, even as Vice President Mike Pence appeared to open the door to talks over the plan.
In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Chris Wallace, the program’s host, asked Pence if the president’s proposal was a final offer. He hedged, saying, “There’s a legislative process that is going to begin on Tuesday in the United States Senate” — a possible acknowledgment that the proposal might be amended on the Senate floor.
“Does that mean that you’re willing to negotiate from what the president said, or is that the final offer?” Wallace asked again. Pence replied, “Well, of course. The legislative process is a negotiation.”
But on Twitter, Trump seemed to be holding fast as he took aim at Pelosi and pushed back against conservative critics who have described the plan as amnesty for unauthorized immigrants.
“Nancy Pelosi and some of the Democrats turned down my offer yesterday before I even got up to speak,” Trump wrote in one of a string of morning tweets. “They don’t see crime & drugs, they only see 2020 — which they are not going to win. Best economy! They should do the right thing for the Country & allow people to go back to work.”
In the deal he outlined Saturday, Trump offered three years of protection for the Dreamers and for immigrants from Latin American and African nations who were covered by what is known as Temporary Protected Status.
But Democrats have said the plan is a nonstarter because it does not offer a pathway to citizenship for the Dreamers, who were brought to the country illegally as children, and offers only temporary protection from deportation.
“Nancy Pelosi has behaved so irrationally & has gone so far to the left that she has now officially become a Radical Democrat,” Trump also wrote.