Donald Trump gave Congress six months to replace DACA. If Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are telling the truth about their meeting with the president yesterday, Trump didn’t even give Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan ten days to find a deal on GOP terms. That may be a big if, however, as two different stories have emerged from that meeting.
According to the two Democrats, Trump agreed to a DACA statute without pressing for border-wall funding, a core initiative for the Trump campaign in the previous election:
The White House hailed a “constructive working dinner” Wednesday night between President Trump and top Democratic congressional leaders, who claimed afterward they agreed to exclude the border wall from a deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Trump and administration officials met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the latest in a series of overtures from the president to the other side of the aisle.
A White House official told reporters afterward the “topics included tax reform, border security, DACA, infrastructure and trade.” But Pelosi and Schumer focused on DACA, former President Barack Obama’s executive action shielding from deportation illegal immigrants who came to the United States before age 16, which was recently rescinded by the Trump administration.
“We had a very productive meeting at the White House with the President,” Schumer and Pelosi said in a joint statement. “The discussion focused on DACA. We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.”
This certainly seemed plausible. After all, the White House had all but offered this same deal two days ago, undercutting any leverage McConnell and Ryan had in negotiating for better terms. Trump had already cut one significant deal with Pelosi and Schumer and later reveled in the media attention it drew. Pelosi even talked Trump into tweeting out a soothing message to DACA recipients during the call in which he celebrated the judos with her.
Late last night, however, Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to walk back reports of a deal:
Trump himself rebutted claims of a deal on Twitter this morning, although he certainly still sounded amenable to one:
But this does sound like the parameters of a deal have been established:
What does “BIG border security” mean here? It doesn’t appear to mean the wall, which Trump described in new and surprisingly humble terms:
It sure sounds like the “big beautiful wall” has had a downgrade in the last few days, no? On the other hand, the deal that Democrats claimed last night might be a little less than first reported, too. Jake Tapper posted a letter Pelosi sent to colleagues last night after the meeting, and pay particular attention to what she claims in the first paragraph, emphasis mine:
Letter @NancyPelosi sent to colleagues about her meeting with POTUS (h/t @TalKopan) pic.twitter.com/5UQZ1HLpBc
– Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) September 14, 2017
Tonight, Leader Schumer and I had a productive meeting with President Trump where we agreed to a plan to work out an agreement to protect our nation’s DREAMERs from deportation.
They “agreed to a plan to work out an agreement”? In the corporate world, that sounds like an agreement to a pre-meeting before a conference to discuss a proposal. If what Pelosi wrote is accurate, they agreed to a framework for negotiation and broad parameters, and that’s all.
Still, it appears from statements from both sides that the framework and the broad parameters are entirely on Democratic terms. Trump has communicated clearly over the nine days since his DACA announcement that he wants it replaced with a statutory version that will allow him to show “big heart” in regard to the children involved. Rather than wait for his party’s leadership on Capitol Hill to force Democrats to trade significant concessions to get it, though, Trump appears to be bypassing them in order to claim all the credit for himself – even if he has to give away the store to get a deal.
At least one person’s tired of all the “winning”:
At this point, who DOESN’T want Trump impeached? https://t.co/g1mMhmm8ng
– Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) September 14, 2017
The problem now for Republicans who want to deliver on that Trump demand for “massive” border security is that they have no more leverage to demand it. Trump has undercut them with his rush to get a deal, no matter how much he now claims that they haven’t gotten it in writing yet. Pelosi and Schumer have taken his measure, and know they can manipulate him more easily than they can Ryan and McConnell. They don’t have to get a DACA deal done in ten days, or even six months; they can hold out forever, and know that Trump won’t end the program. All they have to do is wait for Trump to come to them, and there won’t be anything Ryan or McConnell can do about it.
Update: Speaking of leverage …
In trade for what, exactly? DACA was the GOP’s best leverage, and Trump just handed it back to Pelosi and Schumer.