The lame-duck session presents President Trump with the final opportunity to pressure Congress to do something on immigration. In the New Year, the Republicans will no longer control the House, which of course lowers the chances of a patriotic immigration bill passing. Indeed, it’s not likely any bill could pass Congress right now, with Republicans maintaining slim majorities in both the House and the Senate. But forcing Democrats to stand against the majority of Americans on immigration would be worth the fight. After all, the Democrats exploited the 2010 lame-duck session to the fullest extent by repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, enacting President Obama’s tax bill, and almost passing the DREAM Act. [The Most Productive Lame Duck Since WWII—and Maybe Ever, by Garance Franke-Ruta, The Atlantic, December 22, 2010] Republicans should not let this opportunity go to waste due to the usual cowardice and stupidity.
So what can the President and the Republicans do?
Trump wants to get funding for the border wall. And he does have the power card of the year-end spending bill to make a deal with Democrats. Congress returns to session November 27, and has until December 7 to pass a spending bill. Trump must press his party to fund a border wall now, or he may never get another opportunity to do so.
Trump wants a down-payment of $5 billion for his wall, which is estimated to require $25 billion. The House has agreed to this amount, but the current Senate appropriations bill only allots $1.6 billion for border security—a meager sum that insults Trump’s base. [Trump, GOP press lame-duck Congress for border wall funding, by Kevin Diaz, Houston Chronicle, November 9, 2018] The White House plan also calls for new restrictions on asylum claims and aims to reduce legal immigration. Trump has repeatedly claimed he will risk a government shutdown to get wall funding. But he has made this threat before without achieving his goal. [White House to press tough immigration laws, border wall in Congress’s lame duck session, by Franco Ordonez and Andrea Drusch, McClatchy, November 9, 2018]
Trump has a serious problem with making good on his shutdown threat: House Speaker Paul Ryan has no interest in building the wall and is on his way out of Congress, possibly to take over the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute. [Paul Ryan would be ‘perfect fit’ to lead AEI, Republicans say, by Scott Wong and Melanie Zanona, The Hill, July 24, 2018] Even though he was the worst House Speaker in living memory, Ryan can still make himself appear respectable to Leftists by snubbing Trump one last time. It’s obvious he doesn’t want a shutdown to end his sad congressional career.
Kevin McCarthy, Ryan’s successor as leader of the House GOP caucus, is much more willing to push through the president’s priorities. McCarthy even has a wall-funding bill of his own that would be ideal for Congress to vote on in the lame-duck session.
It’s possible that the new leader could seize the initiative from Ryan and ensure wall funding makes it into the spending bill—or, better yet, force a vote on his own bill. There’s only a very distant possibility McCarthy’s bill would become law, but a vote on it would still be good for Trump to learn which Republicans he shouldn’t support in 2020.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is a bit more willing to fight for the president’s priorities with the must-pass spending bill. ”We’re certainly going to try to help the president achieve what he’d like to do with regard to the wall and border security,” McConnell has said. “We’re going to do the best we can to try to achieve the president’s priorities, and hopefully we will not be headed down that [shutdown] path.” [Congress’s leaders want a drama-free end to the year. Trump has other ideas., by Tara Golshan and Li Zhou, Vox, November 13, 2018]
But Democrats show no sign of wanting to make a deal on immigration, even if it legalizes the much-touted illegal aliens who came here as minors. According to The Hill, Democrats think keeping DACA is a winning issue for 2020 and have zero interest in making a deal to grant legalization to Dreamers in exchange for wall funding. This idea was proposed earlier this year, but fell through due to Democrat demands. [2020 politics make an immigration deal unlikely in lame-duck, by Alexander Bolton, November 14, 2016]
But regardless of whether the bill can pass or not, Trump must insist on having a fight over the wall. He’s promised too many times to build the wall with no results. His supporters demand results and won’t flinch from a government shutdown to accomplish this. The idea that a government shutdown hurts one party or another is bogus. This is proven time and time again, especially in 2013 when Republicans forced a shutdown and then went on to win the 2014 midterms in a landslide. Democrats opposing a wall as migrant caravans converge on the United States is a worse political move than shutting down the government.
Trump saved the Republicans from total obliteration in the 2018 midterms by brandishing immigration. It wouldn’t hurt to bring actual immigration legislation to the floor—let the Democrats admit they support Open Borders by killing a wall bill. It’s the right thing to do, and it will benefit Republicans politically.
Then again…it’s Republicans we are talking about here. Their fortitude is always questionable. The Watcher believes Trump will attempt to push through wall funding but doubts that the Republican leadership will stand still for a shutdown over it.
Things could change. considering the situation with the migrant caravan at the border. Chaos at the border undermines the argument we don’t need a wall, and Democrats will be boxed in if they continue to insist on this idiocy.
But whatever happens, Trump cannot limply say he will get the wall funded at another time. Unless Democrats are convinced they have to make a DACA deal before 2020, don’t expect another legislative opportunity to build the wall.
The wall isn’t the only thing Trump and the Republicans can bring up in the lame-duck.
There is Sen. Lindsey Graham’s proposal to end birthright citizenship. [Graham to introduce legislation to end birthright citizenship, by Jordan Carney, The Hill, October 30, 2018] There’s no way this would pass Congress—but it would start a necessary debate. The elimination of birthright citizenship is essential for America’s future, and we must sway the public to our position. A Senate battle would chip away at chattering class resistance to changing this profoundly flawed way of determining citizenship.
The other immigration idea: vote on a simple bill to mandate E-Verify for all American employers. This would seem a winning issue for Republicans and a hard idea for Democrats to resist—but no politician is currently suggesting this idea.
Why would anyone oppose the requirement that employers ensure they only hire Americans and legal residents? E-Verify is pro-worker and makes it harder for big business to hire illegal labor. This could be a bill that could pass Congress--it just needs one person to propose it. But no one appears to want to do this.
Still, unlike other immigration priorities, mandatory E-Verify has a good chance of passage in the next two years. Democrats will be put in the awkward position of siding with corporations against workers if they kill it.
Hopefully, Trump and a few smart Republicans take up this idea in the coming months.
The Watcher is cautiously optimistic that Trump will force a major fight over immigration before Democrats take control of the House. He may not get the full $25 billion for his wall, but there is a strong possibility he will get more than the paltry $1.6 billion he has received previously. His party just has to stare down the Democrats and show no fear of a government shutdown.
Unfortunately, there’s little sign of movement on anything else.
Washington Watcher [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.