President Donald Trump held two meetings with a handful of senators to discuss immigration reform on Monday, as the three-day government shutdown was coming to an end on Capitol Hill.
The meetings mark Trump’s latest foray into passing an immigration deal and signal that the president is hoping for a more conservative plan than most Democrats want.
Trump met with six Republicans on Monday: Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, John Cornyn of Texas, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, James Lankford of Oklahoma, David Perdue of Georgia and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, according to White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. In a separate meeting, Trump hosted two red-state Democrats — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Doug Jones of Alabama, Sanders said.
“As soon as the Senate voted to reopen the government, the President continued conversations on the next steps on responsible immigration reform,” Sanders said. “We will work with Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate committed to fixing our broken immigration system.”
The group of Republican lawmakers represents the more hard-line and involved senators in the immigration debate, a sign that Trump will need his base of voters to make any immigration deal viable. The Democrats, however, have been less involved in the debate over immigration and represent more winnable Democratic votes for the White House.
Immigration was center stage in the recent fight to fund the government, with Democrats initially demanding that any agreement on government funding should include protection for the roughly 800,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients who were brought to the United States illegally as children.
Democrats backed off those demands on Monday and some backed a measure to keep the government open in exchange for a guarantee from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take up immigration issues — including DACA — by early February.
Though the measure won over some moderate Democrats — particularly those like Manchin who are up for re-election in states that Trump handily won in 2016 — it disappointed many liberals.
“Listen, I’m disappointed with a conversation that suggests a false choice: You either fund the government or you take care of these DACA kids,” said Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California. “We can do both.”
House Democrats were not enthusiastic about the agreement, either, because House Speaker Paul Ryan has not guaranteed that the body will take up the DACA issue once the spending bill is passed.