House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Vice President Mike Pence, President Donald Trump, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., argue during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, in Washington.
Evan Vucci/AP Photo

As shutdown drags on, Trump’s new ‘offer’ seems designed to fail


When Donald Trump wrote on Friday that he’d make “a major announcement” on Saturday regarding immigration and his government shutdown, it seemed to open the door to some kind of shakeup. It wasn’t altogether clear what the president was prepared to propose, but since his unyielding posture wasn’t helping matters, many welcomed the prospect of something new.

Those hopes were soon dashed.

President Donald Trump proposed a deal to end the government shutdown that continued his demand for $5.7 billion in funding for his border wall, but contained what he suggested was a concession to Democrats: three years of protections for immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children and those who fled certain countries and are covered under the “temporary protected status” program. […]

A senior Senate Democratic aide confirmed that Democrats were not consulted by the White House.

After the president’s scripted remarks from the White House, Vice President Mike Pence said, “I think you could tell by the president’s remarks today, that we’re reaching out.”

In a rather literal sense, that’s wrong: the new “plan” was the result of one-party talks – Republicans met with other Republicans to come up with this latest offer – which all but guarantees failure. Indeed, Team Trump began a lobbying campaign after Saturday’s remarks that included organizing a call between the president and House Republicans, who happen to be in the minority in their chamber.

Had the White House tried to actually “reach out” to Democrats, officials would’ve learned this proposal stood no chance of success.

There were some suggestions over the weekend that because Democrats said the offer is too far to the right, and prominent voices from the GOP’s right-wing base said the it’s too far to the left, the president’s new blueprint must have some centrist merit.

Anyone who believes this is making a mistake.

* It’s hardly a new plan: Two weeks ago, the White House made a very similar request to the one Trump laid out on Saturday. The only difference is the fig leaf: temporary protections for some immigrants who’ve been imperiled by Trump’s own regressive agenda.

* It’s not a compromise: Why would anyone trade temporary protections for a permanent wall?

* It’s not bipartisan: Trump arrived his proposal by having Republicans negotiate exclusively with other Republicans. That might make sense, were it not for the fact that (a) Democrats exist; (b) Democrats control the House by a fairly comfortable margin; and (c) Republicans are going to need more than a few Democratic votes in the Senate.

* “Hostage-taking squared”: Trump rescinded DACA, stripping Dreamers of their legal protections, as a way of leveraging these young immigrants’ fate. He then shutdown the government, also as a way of leveraging federal workers’ fate. The latest gambit features the president offering to temporarily restore some of what he took he away.

The Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein summarized this dynamic quite nicely: “Isn’t this a kind of hostage-taking squared? First end the programs. Then shut the government. Then promise to temporarily restore the programs you’ve ended and re-open the government you have closed, in return for the ransom of money for a wall that 55% to 60% of the country consistently opposes?”

* Even Republicans don’t expect it to go anywhere: On ABC News’ “This Week” yesterday, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) characterized the new blueprint as the starting point for additional talks, not something that’ll actually become law.

“What I encouraged the White House to do – and multiple others encouraged the White House to do – is put out a proposal,” Lankford said, adding, “Put out a straw man proposal, get something out there the president can say, ‘I can support this, and it has elements from both sides,’ put it on the table, then open it up for debate.”

So, what happens now? The Senate will reportedly take up Trump’s plan over the next few days. It’s unlikely to clear the chamber, though if it does, the bill will fail soon after in the House.

The president could offer a permanent DACA solution – instead of a three-year reprieve – in exchange for wall funding, and that would at least give Democrats pause. But the White House’s position has long been that Trump would only consider a permanent fix for Dreamers in exchange for deep cuts to legal immigration, which is a bridge too far for Democrats.

And so, Trump and his team floated a “plan” that they knew would be rejected, apparently as part of a public-relations strategy designed to shift blame and shake up some absurd “narrative,”

Serious proposals are designed to solve problems. This one was designed to be rejected.

Postscript: The logistics of a plan that won’t pass probably aren’t too important, but the president on Saturday said he’s offering “three years of legislative relief for 700,000 DACA recipients.” I’m not quite sure how that’s supposed to work. Trump rescinded DACA, though the policy remains in effect while the fight continues in the courts.

How does the White House envision this working? Something akin to a Dream Act that expires in 2021?