FILE -This July 28, 2011 file photo shows the Capitol Dome on Capitol Hill in Washington. Democrats controlling the Senate are pressing for money to...
J. Scott Applewhite

Some Republicans ready to use Dreamers as a bargaining chip

There was no consensus yesterday among congressional Republicans in response to Donald Trump ending the DACA policy protecting Dreamers. Some GOP officials condemned the move as needlessly cruel, others praised the move, while others complained the president's policy isn't punitive enough.

But as the afternoon progressed, one thing became clear: many Republican lawmakers see Dreamers as a bargaining chip and are eager to make a deal. The HuffPost had a good piece on this:

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill broadly agreed on Tuesday that something should be done about young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and who will eventually lose deportation protections if Congress does not step in to help them.

But Republicans are already placing conditions on their support that could kill the effort entirely. They are willing to vote for protecting so-called "Dreamers" -- but not without getting something in exchange for it.

Some suggested trading the Dream Act for a down payment on Trump's proposed border wall. Others suggested trading the Dream Act for the RAISE Act, a far-right bill that would slash legal immigration to the United States. A variety of other possible deals were floated, though none were specifically endorsed by either party's leadership.

But as this chatter moves forward, it's worth appreciating some of the underlying flaws to this entire approach.

First, there's the human component of the debate, and the idea of trying to exploit people in need for some political rewards. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) recently made the case that it's "reprehensible to treat children as bargaining chips," and she has a point. Pelosi added, "Dreamers are not negotiable."

Second, there shouldn't necessarily be the need for a deal. If many congressional Republicans already support protections for Dreamers, and the vast majority of Democrats want the same thing, then the negotiations appear unnecessary.

And third, while this is often overlooked, the Dream Act is already a bipartisan compromise. The legislation, which has been on the shelf waiting to be passed for years, was crafted by Democratic and Republican negotiators, and presented as a consensus proposal.

In other words, many GOP lawmakers yesterday effectively said, "We're open to accepting a bipartisan compromise, but only if Democrats agree to other Republican priorities."

I guess I can't blame them for feeling greedy, but this isn't how bipartisan compromises are supposed to work.