Congress

Immigration reform failure risks GOP support for wall funding, congressman says

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., left, and Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., second from left, accompanied by Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., right, respond to a reporters question during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 27, 2018.
Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., left, and Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., second from left, accompanied by Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., right, respond to a reporters question during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 27, 2018. AP

Failed Republican efforts on immigration reform could jeopardize support within the party for President Donald Trump's wall funding — and Trump has threatened to shut down the government if he doesn't get it.

Republicans who pushed a bill that would have granted a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers along with $25 billion in border security gave a range of answers when McClatchy asked if they would still support funding the wall without action for Dreamers. Their bill failed last week by a large margin.

But one leader in that effort, California Republican Rep. Jeff Denham, who took a 30-second pause before answering the question, said it does put his vote at risk.

"I've been very clear that I want a permanent fix for Dreamers .... that has to be a part of any solution," Denham told McClatchy, referring to people who came into the country illegally as children with their parents.

"There are a large number of us that feel very strongly that we negotiated in good faith to find a solution on the border, as well as a solution for Dreamers," he added. "And I think both the president as well as the majority need to prove how they can find a fix."

Congress has to approve the next budget in September to avoid a government shutdown. After approving the last budget, which included $1.6 billion for border security instead of the $25 billion Trump said he wanted, Trump railed against the budget being a bad deal for Republicans, and said if the wall funding was not in the next budget he wouldn't sign it.

White House staff have since walked back that statement, though Trump hasn't personally, so it remains unclear if he would be willing to trigger a shutdown.

Democrats are unlikely to support a budget with such funding.

"The president’s $25 billion wall request is immoral and unwise, and has bipartisan opposition," Drew Hammill, spokesman for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, told McClatchy Friday.

If every House Democrat voted against the budget, 22 Republicans would have to join them to defeat it. There were 25 Republicans who supported an effort to force a vote on a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, but many of those members are unwilling to say whether they would risk another politically unpopular government shutdown by denying wall funding -- two months before the mid-term elections.

All of the members who led the effort on behalf of Dreamers are at risk in November, and many have large Latino populations in their districts. Some of their opponents have also targeted them for their inability to deliver on immigration reform.

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colorado, said he and others who are pushing for a path to citizenship for Dreamers were still considering options, but implied there could be an effort to block it, depending on how that group decide to move forward.

"We need to get together — we haven't decided on strategy, so I don't know what we're going to do next," Coffman said.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Florida, would not commit to supporting or opposing wall funding, but said he wants to avoid a shutdown at all costs. He was one of the first people to sign on to the Republican effort on behalf of Dreamers.

"We have to get the budget done, and to me shutting down is not a viable option," Diaz-Balart said. "I don't want to go there, because we need to get the appropriations bills done. It's our Constitutional duty, but that's all subject to negotiation."

Rep. Jeff Denham denied entry to ICE facility in Pleasant Hill, California, a San Francisco suburb. A guard said employees inside had been instructed to not answer the door or speak to Denham.

The offices of Reps. Carlos Curbelo, R-Florida, and David Valadao, R-California, gave vague answers, saying they would continue to try to find a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers but making no comment on support or opposition of wall funding by itself.

"The congressman will continue to look for all avenues to provide a permanent solution for Dreamers while modernizing our visa system and securing our border," said Joanna Rodriguez, spokeswoman for Curbelo.

Anna Vetter, a spokeswoman for Valadao, said they weren't going to comment on hypothetical situations.

Kate Irby: 202-383-6071; @KateIrby
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