It seems like ages ago, but it was just last month when Donald Trump hosted immigration talks at the White House and shared his vision for the road ahead. In fact, the president surprised many by saying he’d sign a bipartisan agreement – no matter what’s in it.
“I’m not going to say, ‘Oh, gee, I want this or I want that.’ I’ll be signing it,” Trump said. He added that if lawmakers negotiate a policy “with things that I’m not in love with,” he’d embrace it anyway.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday urged senators to vote against any immigration proposal other than his own plan, courting a showdown with Republican and Democratic senators who oppose the White House’s desire to curb family-based migration and would like to cut a narrower deal. […]
Mr. Trump’s stance amounted to a demand that the Senate significantly cut legal immigration as part of any legislation.
That Wall Street Journal report coincided with a Politico article that said the president has urged lawmakers to reject any proposal “that does not mirror his own.”
The timing of Trump’s posture was especially important because a bipartisan group of senators, calling themselves the “Common Sense Caucus,” unveiled another bipartisan package last night that gives the White House much of it wants.
No matter. The Washington Post reported, “In an interview late Wednesday, a senior administration official denounced the bipartisan bill, calling it a ‘giant amnesty’ that did nothing to secure the border, and vowed the White House would strongly lobby against it Thursday.”
The article quoted the senior administration official saying, “We’re doing everything in our power” to block the bipartisan bill.
For those keeping score, Trump – who, a month ago, said he’d sign practically anything put in front of him – has now rejected (1) the Graham-Durbin bipartisan agreement; (2) the McCain-Coons bipartisan agreement; (3) the bipartisan agreement Trump negotiated with Democratic leaders last fall; (4) the bipartisan framework Trump negotiated with Chuck Schumer last month; (5) the Gardner-Bennet bipartisan agreement; (6) and the Common Sense Caucus’ bipartisan agreement.
The president has, however, endorsed a Republican plan that would give him everything he’s asked for without exception.
It’s against this backdrop that Trump believes Democrats are refusing to “make a deal.” It’s not unreasonable to consider whether the president is confused about what “deal” actually means.
Indeed, he’s accused congressional Dems of putting Dreamers’ futures at risk for political reasons, which is hopelessly bonkers since he’s the one who rescinded DACA in the first place, an absurdity made worse by his refusal to accept any compromise that would protect them. As Vox’s Ezra Klein put it yesterday, “He has taken 690,000 hostages and is now trumpeting the wonderful opportunity everyone has to pay his policy ransom in order to free them, and he is doing all of it while insisting he desperately wants to free them too.”
The president – or, more accurately, those who are now guiding his hand – seems to believe he and his allies have the upper hand. When it comes to the levers of power, that assumption is rooted in fact: immigration hard-liners now dominate the Republican leadership. Democrats, desperate to shield Dreamers, have little leverage and have already accepted concessions they never thought they’d even consider.
With this in mind, the White House believes it can simply wait. Trump will reject every bipartisan offer until Congress endorses his every demand. If lawmakers balk, he’ll punish Dreamers, whose fate he doesn’t really care about anyway, all while blaming Democrats for “making him” hurt his hostages.