WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump told Republican lawmakers on Thursday they might have to compromise with Democrats to reach a deal on immigration reform, and urged his party to pick up more seats in the upcoming midterm elections so “we won’t have to compromise as much.”
Two days after delivering a State of the Union address that called on lawmakers to find compromise and common ground, Trump took aim at Democrats in a speech delivered to congressional Republicans at their annual retreat in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.
Trump criticized Democrats on Thursday, saying they “talk a good game” about restoring the soon-to-expire Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that shields thousands of young immigrants from deportation, but adding that Democrats “don’t produce.” In Tuesday’s address, he promised to extend “an open hand to work with members of both parties.”
Democrats have balked at supporting Trump’s four-point immigration proposal that would provide a path to citizenship to 1.8 million young immigrants brought to the country illegally as minors, in exchange for $20 billion in border wall funding and an end to family reunification visas and the diversity-based visa lottery program. Democrats have opposed the plan in part over objections about the billions of dollars needed to construct a massive border barrier.
“If the Democrats choose to filibuster a framework that includes a generous path to citizenship or something that is not fair, we are not going to approve it. We’re just not going to approve it,” Trump told GOP lawmakers at the retreat. “So we’ll either have something that’s fair and equitable and good and secure, or we’re going to have nothing at all.”
Trump said the framework for the plan was “submitted with great flexibility . . working with both parties.” He also lauded the hard-line conservative lawmakers in the room who worked with him on the proposal — Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).
The president’s immigration reform push comes as lawmakers look to hash a deal to pass a federal spending bill before a looming Feb. 8 deadline, while also taking up the issue of DACA before the program expires in March.
“We’re going to have to compromise unless we elect more Republicans, in which case we can have it just the way everybody in this room wants it,” Trump said.
The president chided members of the Congressional Black Caucus for not standing and applauding when he touted low unemployment rates among black Americans during Tuesday’s State of the Union speech. “They would rather see us not do well than see our country do great, and that is not good,” Trump said of those Democrats who did not applaud on Tuesday night.
The caucus, in a statement issued after the State of the Union, criticized Trump for taking credit for the declining unemployment rates, saying he “inherited a growing economy” from his predecessor, former President Barack Obama.