The Oval Office meeting between Donald Trump and congressional Democratic leaders turned out to be far more dramatic than anyone expected, and to the extent that the president's words have any practical meaning, there was one meaningful takeaway: the Republican is now prepared to shut down the government next week over funding for a border wall.
It reminded me of the Democratic offer the president should've accepted earlier this year.
Though this doesn't come up much anymore, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) met privately with Trump at the White House in January, and the two had what was described as the "Cheeseburger Summit." After the meeting, the Democratic leader seemed optimistic that he and the president had come up with the "framework" for an immigration deal.
As we discussed at the time, the basic contours of the deal were straightforward: Schumer was willing to accept funding for a border wall in exchange for DACA protections for Dreamers.
After Trump negotiated the terms, the White House balked: Chief of Staff John Kelly called Schumer soon after to explain the plan wasn't far enough to the right for Republicans. Trump himself declared that he'd need far more in any deal, including significant cuts to legal immigration.
I'm reminded of something Slate's Jim Newell wrote back in Matrch:
[All Trump] had to do was accept a 10- to 14-year path to citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States at a young age.That deal has been on the table for more than a month now: Trump gives Democrats a path to citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers; Democrats give Trump his full $25 billion wall funding request. [...]It is confounding that Trump didn't just take the deal.
That was published nearly nine months ago. It's still confounding that Trump didn't just take the deal.
Indeed, when the Dems' offer -- wall money for DACA -- came to the Senate floor, it received 54 votes, despite a veto threat from Trump. Sure, it needed 60 votes to advance, but the president's preferred immigration alternative received just 39 votes in a chamber with a Republican majority.
At this point, some of you might be thinking, "Well, wait a second. If the odds of a shutdown next week are improving, what's to stop Trump and Dems from rekindling that same deal? The president may have rejected the offer before, but in his desperation, maybe he'd accept it now?"
Trump might wish he had it to do over again, but it's too late. For one thing, the White House lost its leverage when the courts ruled that the president couldn't scrap the DACA policy.
For another, Dems made that offer long before the midterm elections. They're in a far stronger negotiating position now -- which is why they've taken their previous offer off the table.
It would've been the biggest victory of Trump's presidency. For reasons he ought to regret, he rejected it.