Pelosi, Schumer pull out of White House meeting after Trump tweet
Updated 9:23 pm, Tuesday, November 28, 2017
WASHINGTON — Democratic congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer pulled out of a meeting Tuesday to discuss spending levels with President Trump after he tweeted that a deal with them was unlikely.
The action signaled that Pelosi, the House minority leader from San Francisco, and Schumer, her counterpart in the Senate from New York, are prepared to use their leverage for issues that are important to Democratic lawmakers as they head into tense budget negotiations with Republicans to avoid a government shutdown by the end of next week.
Among their top priorities is a path to legalization for “Dreamers,” the roughly 700,000 young immigrants who came to the United States as children without authorization. The Obama administration gave this group temporary protected status through its Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals policy, known as DACA. Trump reversed that policy Sept. 5 and gave Congress six months to resolve the issue. If Congress fails to act by March 5, Dreamers could face deportation.
Republicans will probably need the votes of congressional Democrats to raise the debt ceiling and keep government running before the current funding expires Dec. 8.
Pelosi and Schumer were set to meet with Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., when Trump tweeted that “Chuck and Nancy” want “illegal immigrants flooding into our country unchecked” and that Democrats are “weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes. I don’t see a deal!”
In a joint statement afterward, the two Democratic leaders said there was no point in the meeting following Trump’s tweet.
“Given that the president doesn’t see a deal between Democrats and the White House, we believe the best path forward is to continue negotiating with our Republican counterparts in Congress instead,” they said.
Republicans will need help from Democrats to get a deal done. Republicans have only a 52-48 majority in the Senate but will need 60 votes to pass a government funding bill. In the House, party conservatives have routinely refused to vote for spending bills, leaving the GOP leadership shorthanded on critical fiscal measures and handing leverage to Pelosi, who has had to deliver the necessary votes in the past.
About a quarter of the Dreamers reside in California, with thousands in nearly every congressional district in the state. California universities, business groups and immigrant rights groups are putting intense pressure on members in both parties to give legal status to young immigrants who grew up as Americans but were prevented from obtaining passports and driver’s licenses, legally holding jobs and enrolling in college as U.S. residents. About 4,000 Dreamers are enrolled in the University of California alone.
Pelosi warned this month that House Democrats would not help Republicans keep the government open without a deal on DACA. California Sen. Kamala Harris became the first Senate Democrat to threaten to withhold support for any year-end spending bill unless the Dreamers win a path to citizenship.
Although expanded immigration is generally toxic within the GOP, some Republicans, particularly California House members such as David Valadao of Hanford (Kings County) and Jeff Denham of Turlock (Stanislaus County), who represent heavily Latino districts, want legal status for young immigrants, providing the potential for bipartisan legislation.
Republicans are arguing that action on the Dreamers isn’t necessary before March 5, when tens of thousands of DACA recipients will begin to see their status expire, and could be deported. But by then, Democrats won’t have nearly the leverage they have now with a government shutdown looming.
Schumer said Democrats have “a bunch” of other priorities they want addressed in negotiations with Republicans as well.
These include keeping domestic spending on pace with the GOP’s demand for higher military spending, disaster aid for recovery from three recent hurricanes and the Wine Country fires, and reauthorizing the giant Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which Congress allowed to lapse Sept. 30.
The health program provides routine care for 9 million children and pregnant women, including 1.3 million living in California, which has the nation’s largest program and is set to run out of money by the end the year. The state receives $2.7 billion a year in federal funding through the program.
In September, Pelosi and Schumer said Trump cut a verbal deal with them on raising the debt ceiling, appearing to leave Republicans in Congress out in the cold and giving Democrats the upper hand. Next week’s Dec. 8 deadline was set by that deal. At a dinner over Chinese food a week later, Pelosi and Schumer said Trump had agreed to try to reach accommodation for the Dreamers, without insisting on building a wall on the border with Mexico. Trump later denied that he had agreed to any such thing.
McConnell and Ryan indicated Tuesday that they would lay the blame on Pelosi and Schumer for endangering soldiers on the battlefield if the government shuts down. McConnell said he had never refused a meeting with former President Barack Obama.
“We have important work to do,” Ryan told reporters after the White House meeting, where two chairs for Pelosi and Schumer were left conspicuously empty.
Carolyn Lochhead is the San Francisco Chronicle’s Washington correspondent. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org