Congress

Freedom Caucus head sees negotiations over Trump’s tough immigration plan

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, speaks with reporters as the House prepared to vote on relief for hurricane victims at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Sept. 8, 2017.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, speaks with reporters as the House prepared to vote on relief for hurricane victims at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. AP

The leader of the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus isn’t taking a hard line on the tough immigration plan that President Donald Trump has unveiled.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said Monday he expects negotiations on Trump’s outline.

"Do we support it and applaud the principles laid out? Without a doubt," Meadows told McClatchy Monday. "Do we understand that at this particular point that there’s a lot more work to be done? I think we acknowledge that as well."

He added: "You’ve got to have a lot more bipartisan flavor in the Senate to get something to the president’s desk."

The Freedom Caucus, which has about three dozen of the House’s staunchest conservatives, is regarded as pivotal to Republican legislative success in that chamber. The House has 240 Republicans, but it takes 218 for a bill to win passage. A mass Freedom Caucus defection means trouble for the GOP.

The Senate has proven a bigger obstacle. Caucus members have for some time railed against some of their GOP Senate colleagues as instrumental in scuttling efforts to fulfill party promises this year, notably the doomed attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare. Republicans control 52 of the Senate’s 100 seats, and it usually takes 60 votes to cut off debate.

Meadows did not offer specifics about possible changes.

Trump detailed a set of priorities Sunday that would protect hundreds of thousands of young immigrants brought to the United States illegally by their parents.

In exchange for protecting the Dreamers, Trump proposed a series of conditions that include funding for a wall along the Mexican border, a curb on the influx of Central American minors into the U.S., the hiring of 10,000 immigration enforcement officers and a crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities, which will not provide assistance to federal authorities in locating and detaining undocumented immigrants.

Trump’s outline has done little to spark much bipartisanship, but it may have helped him win back some conservatives.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., last month thought they had been getting close to an understanding with Trump on protections for the Dreamers. But they blasted his plan Sunday night.

"The administration can’t be serious about compromise or helping the Dreamers if they begin with a list that is anathema to the Dreamers, to the immigrant community and to the vast majority of Americans," Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement.

Trump’s immigration outline flipped the mood of Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Democrats are grousing about Trump now, but it was conservative Republicans who were complaining about him last month. They complained Trump was getting to cozy with "Chuck and Nancy" after he struck a deal with them to safeguard protections for nearly 800,000 immigrants brought into this country illegally as children.

"I think conservatives are pleased," Meadows said. "I was one that when the president met with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi (said that) one dinner with two Democrats doesn’t make immigration policy."

Meadows Monday made sure to include one line in a more formal Freedom Caucus statement praising Trump’s immigration outline.

“We look forward to the administration’s insistence on these principles in any deal that is signed into law,” he said.

William Douglas: 202-383-6026, @williamgdouglas

President Trump defended his decision to end the DACA program, which protected nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants, on Tuesday afternoon.

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