Why Chuck Schumer Can’t Win on Immigration


At any other time, this would be a fine moment for Chuck Schumer to open that bottle of Brooklyn bourbon that he gifted Mitch McConnell this week.

Since Congress returned in January, Schumer has secured for another decade funding for health programs for poor kids. Caps on domestic spending have been removed, opening the way for opioid treatment, community health centers and prescription drugs for seniors. If Donald Trump keeps digging holes for the Republicans, Democrats may have a very, very good Election Night in November and Schumer’s party might just earn the majority.

Yet the Senate Minority Leader is marching through the Capitol with plenty of side-eye from his skeptical colleagues. Among aides and advisers to Democratic lawmakers, there is a strained patience with Schumer, who balked during the shutdown and, at least for the moment, traded away immigration in order for a broader spending bill. In conversations with more than 25 Hill staffers, the distaste for Schumer is clear. Among most lawmakers, there is only slightly more respect for Schumer’s strategy and deep fears about the party’s base.

None of Schumer’s successes matter if he cannot shepherd an immigration bill into law in the eyes of his party’s loudest voices. And his efforts for those immigrants, at least in 2018, don’t give his troops a reason to rest comfortably.

“We all know that immigration is fraught with peril. But this is the closest we’ve come, and everybody has to make a really final effort,” Schumer told reporters on Tuesday. “In our Democratic caucus, we want to do two things: protect Dreamers and get 60 votes. It’s not an easy needle to thread.”

Schumer, it seems, cannot win.

He guided the government into a shutdown last month over immigration protections for young people who came to the country illegally as children. (The hostage-taking failed.) He let government workers get back to work three days later on the promise the Democrats would get a vote on immigration legislation. (They did not, but instead they voted to keep the government funded for another two years.) Now, Schumer and his party are racing against a March 5 deadline to protect those young immigrants. (Failure could result in as many as 800,000 deportations, although it’s not clear if the courts would allow enforcement.)

So it’s entirely understandable that Schumer looks tired these days. His allies are engaged in a ferocious tug of war with him over this issue. The energized left flank of his Democratic Party wants a big deal, while pragmatists closer to the center want to focus on the immediate task of the Dreamers and those protected under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Those immigrants’ protected status is now measured in hours, not months, and there’s no telling how Trump will deal with them. After all, Trump himself ordered the DACA program’s end, told Congress to take up the issue if it mattered so much to them, seemed to strike a deal with Schumer only to renege when conservatives revolted.

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Source:: Time – Politics

      

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