Republican Lawmakers Discuss DACA

Lawmakers get political as the deadline for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program looms within the framework of Congressional agreement on a budget. For Republican leadership, the situation creates a kind of balancing act between proposals for a legislative DACA fix while also attempting to leverage their majority position around funding appropriations, border security and their ideological base.

According to a report in The Huffington Post, House Speaker Paul Ryan told House conservatives privately that a legislative fix for the undocumented who came to the United States as children– that is, a legislative fix for DACA recipients– would be part of a deal worked out with Democrats.

Congressional willingness to address DACA has shown a marked increase since President Trump began the process of shutting down the program, which was implemented under a President Obama executive order. Constitutionally speaking, legislation is a task assigned to Congress, elected officials on Capitol Hill traditionally have punted on the issue. When President Trump decided to sunset legal status for young immigrants, he essentially forced the Congressional hand to move out of inaction.

While instinct suggests the Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate give the GOP carte blanche, the reality appears much more tempered. In the first place, the Republican majority is not decisive in terms of having the votes within their own aisle to pass legislation. Democratic support is necessary to achieve progress.

“We were having a discussion about where the year was going, what’s left that out there to get done,” Georgia Republican Representative Rob Woodall says. DACA is one of those things that’s “on the list.” The spending bill is another. Between the two, Woodall concedes, “we just wouldn’t have the votes to do it by itself, so it would have to get combined.

“Many Republicans have said they want to do something for Dreamers, but passing a standalone bill would likely only be possible if Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) chose to put a measure on the floor without the majority support of their party,” according to the HuffPost article.

Border security is another element that plays an important part in the political mix. On this point, as well, much contention is expected. A southern border wall was refraining Trump for President Trump during his campaign, but no consensus exists as to whether a wall equates to border security.

During the private meeting, Ryan discussed the idea of border security as a precursor to any kind of DACA fix. Border security, says Walker, “could be defined in different ways.” And while the condition likely remains as part of the agenda Ryan is pushing to the House floor, Walker says a wall isn’t necessarily part of the equation.

“He did talk about the fact that it would be good if we could get ahead of that as opposed to being reactionary,” Walker said of Ryan’s DACA comments.