WASHINGTON — 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.
“This plan solves the immediate crisis, and it is a horrible crisis,” Trump said in an address to the nation, delivered from the Diplomatic Room at the White House. “And it provides humanitarian relief, delivers real border security and immediately reopens our federal government.”
Trump said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has agreed to put his proposal into a bill and bring it up on the floor by the end of next week.
Democratic leaders in Congress declared the plan dead on arrival.
“It is unlikely that any one of these provisions alone would pass the House, and taken together, they are a non-starter,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “For one thing, this proposal does not include the permanent solution for the Dreamers and TPS recipients that our country needs and supports.”
The partial government shutdown, which is now the longest in history, began Dec. 22, when the House and Senate failed to pass legislation funding various agencies, including the Homeland Security Department. Trump said Saturday that he intends to follow through on the promise he made repeatedly on the campaign trail — one that he originally framed as requiring Mexico to pay for a barrier.
“I intend to keep that promise one way or the other,” he said. “Our immigration system should be the subject of pride, not a source of shame as it is all over the world.”
The conservative Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank, criticized Trump for offering up a shield to certain immigrants.
“Amnesty should not be part of any border security deal, especially given that many who today oppose a wall have publicly supported and even voted for physical barriers in the recent past,” James Carafano, vice president of The Heritage Foundation’s Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, said in a statement.
“Unlike many in Washington, President Trump has shown himself to be serious about securing the border and fixing our broken immigration system. For this he is to be commended. However, the proposed compromise is not the best way forward,” Carafano said.
Trump has considered various proposals that would, in theory, allow him to shift money and resources to try to build the wall, but there are political, logistical and legal pitfalls that make those options difficult.
Since the government shutdown began four weeks ago, the two parties have ceded no ground, with Trump and Republican leaders in Congress insisting that bills to re-open the agencies include money for the wall he promised on the campaign trail. Democratic leaders have held firm to the position that Trump must agree to fund the agencies without the wall money.
A senior House Democratic aide said that similar offers had already been rejected by Democrats, and further highlighted that this proposal did not provide Dreamers full protections or a permanent solution. It was Trump himself who lifted the protections for the immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents, a move that was blocked in the federal courts last August. The administration has asked the Supreme Court to lift that block, but on Friday the high court took no action.
That suggests that the high court won’t take up DACA this term, which would require the government to keep the program going for at least 10 more months. The court’s final decision remains uncertain, however.
The wall, it appears, also remains a nonstarter.
“This is not a compromise as it includes the same wasteful, ineffective $5.7 billion wall demand that shut down the government in the first place,” the aide said before Trump’s remarks.
To Democrats, the only way to move forward is for the president to re-open the government and then negotiate border security.
They are willing to make a deal with the White House, the aide said, as long as it does not include “an expensive and ineffective wall that the president promised Mexico would pay for.”
A senior Senate Democratic aide confirmed that Democrats were not consulted by the White House, adding that Trump is “holding more people hostage for his wall.”
Approximately 800,000 federal workers are impacted by the government shutdown, many not receiving a paycheck or working without pay. Federal contractors, not included in that number, are currently losing $200 million a day.
Democrats were confident that Trump’s proposal would not pass the House or the Republican-controlled Senate, but Pelosi said that a package of bills that will be proposed next week had bipartisan support.
“Next week, Democrats will pass a package of six bills agreed to by House and Senate negotiators and other legislation to re-open government so that we can fully negotiate on border security proposals,” she said. “The President must sign these bills to re-open government immediately and stop holding the American people hostage with this senseless shutdown.”
U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., also did not mince words when he first heard reports of Trump’s proposed deal, stating that it did not have much hope in the Senate.
“First, President Trump and Senate Majority Leader McConnell must open the government today,” Durbin said. “Second, I cannot support the proposed offer as reported and do not believe it can pass the Senate. Third, I am ready to sit down at any time after the government is opened and work to resolve all outstanding issues.”
Pelosi said that the president owned the shutdown and its impact on the nation.
“The President has taken pride in shutting down government,” she said less than an hour before the president’s speech. “Now, he must take action to open up government.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., put the blame for ending DACA and other protections squarely on the Trump administration, and he said the president was the one who shut down the government.
“It was the president who singled-handedly took away DACA and TPS protections in the first place —offering some protections back in exchange for the wall is not a compromise but more hostage taking,” Schumer said in a statement.
Jonathan Allen and Geoff Bennett reported from Washington, and Phil McCausland reported from New York.