Schumer and Pelosi strike again: Democrats cut Dreamers deal with Trump
President Trump meets with, from left, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other Congressional leaders in the Oval Office, Sept. 6, 2017. | Evan Vucci / AP

Given the coverage of the last few days, you might think the cable news media loves a fight more than it is concerned with the fate of the Dreamers, though Dreamers represent some of the best vetted and most productive members of our society.

Meeting with Trump and others, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi on Sept. 13 worked out a “deal to make a deal as soon as possible”—which seems the proper description—on enshrining the roots of DACA and agreeing on border security issues—outside the wall, the Democrats said. On that “outside” phrase, the White House tweeted disagreement.

Ever since, the main media coverage has talked up a feud between Democrats and Republicans, and whether Trump has abandoned his campaign promises and the principles that had kept the hardened by his side.

The problem there, of course, is that Trump has said so many things that Reneging seems more his middle name than John.

The Republicans, frankly, are not all that clear on what they are upset about, except those lousy Democrats finding a way in. House Speaker Paul Ryan in public has indicated a desire to keep the Dreamers and has privately agreed, as many in Congress do, that the border wall idea is silliness set in concrete, now requiring billions from Congress while waiting fruitlessly for Mexico to chip in.

Just because Trump has core followers eager to believe him, only in words are Republican politicians willing to be dragged over the border wall cliff. They want to keep that core on their side. But if the hardened Trumpites haven’t abandoned him over all the other stuff, just give him a speech or two to finesse this one.

Still, border security—without the expensive wall—is a gigantic concern and both sides may quietly like a deal that keeps DACA and stiffens the border. What the Republicans are really angry about is that Trump bought it from the political opposition. I suspect that’s what the American public likes about the dealing—even the Trump haters (or realists) who fear helping the nation may help him in the polls. Schumer and Pelosi seem more concerned about moving the issues forward and pledge, “We will never be for the wall.”

In a Sept. 6 People’s World story, I speculated that Schumer and Pelosi, longtime detail experts in legislation, could work out a DACA and border security deal after they got Trump to accept their combination of hurricane relief and three month delay in the debt ceiling crisis.

But the Sept. 13 discussion brought outrage from Republicans—even on things they agree with. For instance, Trump has not abandoned his call for a wall. He just indicated they were security measures that would be part of the deal first, even as Schumer reaffirmed that Trump was not abandoning the wall but would leave it aside in this new discussion. Yet, the GOP and the media keep using terms like “caved” or “rolled” to describe the president’s behavior.

The irony here is that outside the definitive minority around Trump, the wall is not the key to security. My personal feeling is that too much is being made about the border in any case, but some measures short of the wall, aimed more at drugs than people, might be welcome. Some good ideas, which would cut down on the U.S. market for illegal drugs, might not involve the border at all, while others such as drone surveillance might. If the price is protecting the Dreamers, that is the sort of tradeoff the public wants.

In fact, Republicans were ready to propose this—as they were with another piece of the Schumer-Pelosi-Trump discussion: stability in the economic market for the Affordable Care Act now that they’ve failed to repeal it.

People on the hard right keep warning of a civil war in the Republican Party if this deal goes through, while devout leftists in the Democratic Party worry that Schumer and Pelosi are moving too hard to the center (and what kind of person would make a deal with Trump in the first place?).

But even a suspicious person needs the president on certain issues, and cutting some deals may also derail some of his most horrifying ideas. If working with him produces obstinacy in his own party, all the better.

In Washington, it remains about power. The Republicans are realizing there is quite a difference when they control all the levers compared to the past when they could just be against everything. They are finding as well that they were wrong in thinking any R president would be malleable. Ryan and Senate leader Mitch McConnell are also paying a price for stubbornness and hubris. They wanted to slow-walk the country under a feverish president who demands action—any action simple enough for him to understand.

Ryan may be miffed but he also can count, and it’s completely possible that there might be 40 Republicans in the House who would go along with such a deal. (Pelosi is famous for keeping her members together, Ryan is not.) Over in the Senate, McConnell has only a two-vote majority, though at least eight Republicans have spoken up for the Dreamers. So he can’t rely on party majority with this issue. Nor can he openly come out against his own party’s president, though he certainly must now regret the choice.

Several things are unclear at this point. Pelosi is sure Trump endorsed the bipartisan Dream Act, which includes a meandering path to citizenship (which is more than Obama’s executive order could promise). But no one in or out of the White House is certain that Trump understood the details behind his assurance. That and specifics of the border security need to be clarified.

The bigger news for the media right now is the unhappiness of the Republicans, the fear in Trump’s ranks that he is abandoning them, and the concern among Democrats about any deal or discussion of a deal with Trump. The talking heads need to keep the pot boiling.

Meanwhile, according to the polls, most of the nation wants something to be done for the 800,000 Dreamers brought to this country too young to have a choice.


Dominique Paul Noth
Dominique Paul Noth

Dominique Paul Noth for the past decade was editor of the Milwaukee Labor Press and website, He now writes as an independent journalist on culture and politics.