During Tuesday’s White House discussion on immigration, Donald Trump stumbled in important ways. As we discussed yesterday, the president accidentally endorsed a Senate Democrat’s request for a clean DACA bill, extending protections to Dreamers, only to have a House Republican quickly interject, reminding Trump of what his position is supposed to be.
The contradiction was compounded yesterday when he initially told reporters he’d support any bipartisan immigration agreement reached in Congress. Five seconds later, Trump added, “No, no, no. It’s got to include the wall.”
Got it. The president will support any congressional bill, no matter what’s in it, unless he doesn’t like what’s in it.
But even the White House’s position on Trump’s proposed border wall is far from clear. What the president promised voters was a wall – not a fence – that spanned the U.S./Mexico border, which Mexico would pay for. Trump now expects Americans to pay for the barrier, and according to what Kellyanne Conway told CNN’s Chris Cuomo last night, the rest of the president’s promise is uncertain, too.
“[A]fter conferring with the experts who are involved in this process, Christopher, the president has discovered that part of it – well, he knows part of it will be the physical wall, part of it is better technology, part of it is also fencing. You know, there are rivers involved, I’m told, there are mountains involved, but there is terrain that isn’t conducive to building an actual physical structure in some places.”
So let me get this straight. Trump launched his presidential campaign in June 2015. He was a candidate for a year and a half, during which time he publicly committed, countless times, to build a border wall. He then spent a year as president, promising to follow through on his campaign pledge to build a giant wall with Mexican money.
It’s only now Trump has “conferred” with experts and “discovered” problems with his promise?
As for the broader debate, a bipartisan group of six senators are reportedly working on a possible deal that would resolve, among other things, the DACA issue and future protections for Dreamers. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), one of the six, told NBC News that the negotiators are “very close” to an agreement.
And while that will probably sound encouraging to those hoping to see progress on the issue, it’s worth noting that if the Senate succeeds in passing a bipartisan deal, it would go to the Republican-led House, which may not welcome the bipartisan measure.
Indeed, the Republican chairmen of the House Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees, negotiating only with themselves, presented a far-right immigration policy of their own yesterday, which ignores key areas of bipartisan agreement.
Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) told the New York Times that the House GOP plan “is the only bill that’s going to unify the conference.”
My advice to those wondering what will happen now: keep expectations low.