WASHINGTON — With no end in sight to the longest government shutdown, President Donald Trump dangled the prospect of a deal on the Obama-era DACA program in exchange for Democrats’ support for his $5.7 billion demand to build a southern border wall.
Trump took to Twitter on Sunday morning, accusing Democrats of not including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in ongoing negotiations to reopen the government, despite the president previously declaring the program, which grants temporary legal status to about 800,000 young immigrants, should be excluded from talks until the Supreme Court weighs in on the program.
"Democrats are saying that DACA is not worth it and don’t want to include in talks," Trump tweeted. "Many Hispanics will be coming over to the Republican side, watch!"
On Thursday, when asked by reporters at the White House about the prospect of including DACA in a broader deal to reopen the government, Trump said: “Let the Supreme Court rule first.
“I'd rather have the Supreme Court rule and then work with the Democrats on DACA," he said.
Last week when Vice President Mike Pence was asked about the possibility of brokering a deal on DACA to shore up Democratic support for the border wall, he said the administration should await a Supreme Court decision on the program, which the Trump administration rescinded in 2017, setting off a series of legal challenges to preserve the initiative that provided legal status to hundreds of thousands of students and young adults who were brought to the country illegally by their parents.
“We feel confident the Supreme Court will find DACA to have been unconstitutional,” Pence said. "At that time he [Trump] believes there will be an opportunity for us to not only address the issue affecting the Dreamers, but also a range of immigration issues."
Four weeks into the government shutdown, with nearly a dozen agencies still shuttered and some 800,000 federal workers out of work or working without pay, Trump continued to tweet his long-standing talking points in favor of the wall, arguing the barrier will drive down crime.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned that the shutdown could delay access to the anti-opioid drug Buprenorphine for those who rely on the highly regulated drug to treat their addictions. Schumer, in a statement, said doctors and medical centers are reporting they have been "unable to contact" the Drug Enforcement Agency to "verify and update their registration" so that they can prescribe additional patients with the anti-addiction medication.
"Simply put, the DEA, in many ways, holds the keys to accessing critical anti-opioid treatment drugs that New York City and Long Island patients and doctors need to combat this deadly scourge," Schumer said. "We need them fully open and running to put those keys back into the hands of the New York doctors who save lives and the patients who are fighting to get better."
Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), a Trump ally on Capitol Hill, told "Fox News Sunday" he spoke with the president by phone and urged him “to open up the government for a short period of time, like three weeks, before he pulls the plug” and takes unilateral action to fund the wall by declaring a national emergency.
Graham said he was “confident” Trump would be willing to accept a deal with Democrats that includes protecting the DACA program and other immigrants protected under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program, but Democrats have raised reservations about arranging such an agreement, citing past failed negotiations over those programs.
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), speaking on "Fox News Sunday," said the challenge of negotiating with Trump is "you don’t know what Trump you are going to get each day.
"I agree with the advice that Lindsey Graham just gave to the president, which is that he should reopen the government and we should spend several weeks negotiating over what we can all agree on. I personally don’t think that a border wall is in and of itself immoral,” Coons added.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2-ranking Democrat in the Senate, speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” said the impasse would not be resolved until “Senate Republicans say we’ve had enough.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not schedule a floor vote for any measures to reopen the government not endorsed by Trump, but a growing number of moderate Republicans have urged McConnell to separate the border wall debate from the spending bills and schedule a vote. House Democrats approved a series of bills last week to reopen the shuttered agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service.
"Once the president realizes he's lost the Senate Republicans, we can roll up our sleeves, open the government and get down to business," Durbin said.
House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) said he hoped a resolution could be reached by lawmakers and not by Trump declaring a national emergency.
"We don't want it to come to a national emergency declaration," Scalise said. "The ultimate plan is for Congress to solve this, and the president's been very clear: Congress needs to solve this.”