The key point to remember when assessing Pres. Trump’s “agreement” with Congressional Democratic leadership on DREAMer immigrants is that he started it. Granted, he only started it to avoid a lawsuit over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but it wasn’t strictly necessary for Trump to urge Congress to legislate on the issue, let alone seem to suggest general parameters with the Democrats.
Trump generally began his term by deferring to the GOP Congress on the legislative calendar, and it is widely believed this move on immigration (and on the debt ceiling) reflect his frustration (or pique, if you prefer) with the supposed failure of House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. Maj. Ldr. Mitch McConnell to deliver “wins.”
But if Trump has decided he needs to start Presidenting to get his wins, he will probably need to do some real modern Presidenting.
Yesterday, McConnell issued a statement “look[ing] forward to receiving the Trump administration’s legislative proposal” on DREAMers, which could be construed as meeting pique with pique. If Trump (and others) think Ryan & McConnell deserve no seat at the table, it would only be appropriate for Trump to be forced to put his actual negotiating position with the Dems on the table himself. And it would be doubly appropriate to have a President who criticized the House healthcare bill after it was passed get off the bench and into the arena.
However, intentionally or not, McConnell is also doing Trump a favor.
I previously noted that this debate would put Trump supporters in the position of having to weigh their restrictionist leanings on immigration against their partisanship toward Trump. And the rationalizations I predicted of those who choose the latter are already emerging.
The polling on how Trump supporters may react to a DREAMer deal isn’t 100% clear, which isn’t surprising because immigration polling tends to depend to a large degree on how the questions are framed. A new YouGov poll suggests GOPers and trump supporters in particular are split on DREAMer relief, even if prompted with Trump’s support for Congressional action. OTOH, a new Morning Consult poll shows 67% of Trump voters support some form of relief, though not necessarily a path to citizenship.
Dig further into the Morning Consult poll and you find Trump voters split on whether a stand-alone DREAMer law is acceptable vs a law including border security and a reduction in legal immigration. Also note that last month’s YouGov poll gave Trump an 84% approval rating on immigration, considerably higher than the 67% support for a DREAM deal.
Even assuming a high level of overall partisan loyalty, Trump is not in a position where he can afford to lose even small slices of his base.
Perhaps most significant, according to the the Morning Consult poll, GOPers and Trump supporters trust Trump over Ryan & McConnell in dealing with Congressional Dems. This data — combined with the fact that Trump started this — point to certain conclusions.
Having decided that he needs to initiate deals himself if he’s going to get wins, Trump will need to sell and close the deal. The success or failure of the process he invited and into which he has inserted himself will reflect more directly on Trump. Indeed, Trump’s defenders have already been pumping the narrative that Trump had to do this, which inherently means that Trump has to do it.
And a DREAM deal is more likely to be popular — and thus of broader benefit to Trump and the GOP — if Ryan & McConnell play the bit part suggested by McConnell’s statement.
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