Failure of Spending Bill Dreamer Deal Left Both Sides Short

(Bloomberg) -- The failure of a last-ditch attempt between the White House and congressional Democrats to strike a long-sought immigration deal in the $1.3 trillion spending bill left both sides far short of what they wanted.

In a bid to get President Donald Trump’s border wall built, the White House and Republican leaders made Democrats an offer.

They wanted to include in the spending legislation $25 billion for border security -- a mix of physical barriers, technology and border agents. In return they offered two-and-a-half more years of protection from deportation for the roughly 690,000 young immigrants currently enrolled in the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals program, according to accounts from a White House official and aides in Republican and Democratic leadership offices.

“DACA was abandoned by the Democrats. Very unfair to them! Would have been tied to desperately needed Wall,” Trump said Friday on Twitter.

According to the GOP congressional aide, Republicans also offered to expand the DACA-eligible population by adjusting the age limits.

The proposal was rebuffed. The Democratic aide said party leaders viewed the White House offer as giving Trump what he wanted while still leaving the young immigrants in limbo. They countered with acceptance of the $25 billion for a wall, but in exchange demanded a path to citizenship for the 1.8 million people eligible for DACA -- known as dreamers -- which Trump had offered in his four-point immigration plan earlier this year.

Four-Point Plan

But the White House rejected the path to citizenship without the other demands in Trump’s four-point plan, including reductions in family-based legal immigration and an end to the diversity green-card lottery.

The negotiations lasted about a week and the attempt to reach an accord on immigration was one of the reasons Republican leaders repeatedly missed their self-imposed deadlines to get the spending bill to the floor of the House and Senate for votes.

Once the chances for a deal melted away, the finger-pointing began.

"Democrats refused to take care of DACA. Would have been so easy, but they just didn’t care. I had to fight for Military and start of Wall," Trump tweeted late Wednesday.

Democrats Respond

Democrats had a different view.

“President Trump created this crisis," said Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, who’s been the lead Democrat in the immigration debate. “But instead of working towards a solution, he has stopped every effort that we’ve tried to make on behalf of the dreamers.”

The 2,232-page budget legislation that came out Wednesday included $1.6 billion for border security with a major caveat: construction of barriers would be limited to the building and replacement of fencing and levees. The bill allows planning and design of new barriers but not their construction.

Democrats argue they blocked Trump from getting his wall, while Republican leaders are selling the funding as a down payment on it.

“We -- the president and I and other leaders in the House and Senate -- offered that to the Democrats and they said no,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday on Fox News, referring to protections for dreamers. “So we said let’s do multiyear funding for the wall in exchange for multiyear relief for the DACA kids and they walked away from that. They wouldn’t take that. So what we’re doing here is there isn’t a DACA solution in here, but there is wall funding for the next six months.”

The House passed the comprehensive spending bill Thursday afternoon and the Senate is set to follow before the midnight Friday deadline when current government funding runs out.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.