In the DACA game of chicken we see Trump learning how the legislative system works.
Pay attention to how DACA plays out in Congress because the same negotiation dynamic at play with immigration – Trump has something the Democrats want but for which the Democrats don’t want to pay the price – holds true for other legislative items that are on dock:
- Obamacare Subsidies – The Democrats want the subsidies restored in order to stabilize an already creaking Obamacare system, but don’t want to exchange it for Republican demands to repeal other important facets of Obamacare.
- Infrastructure – Unions and their voters badly want Federal money for infrastructure development (and will yearn for it even more if the Supreme Court strikes down Abood) but Democrats are loathe to give Trump another major legislative victory on top of the 2017 tax bill that he and his Party can take credit for in Rust Belt states that will be electorally crucial in 2018 and 2020.
- Defense & Domestic Spending Caps – Democrats want caps on domestic spending lifted but not if defense spending is increased.
As for immigration Conservatives, I’m afraid many of those who oppose Trump’s immigration plan have misread the lay of the land. Trump’s proposal has two possible directions to take –
- The proposal is passed as legislation.
- The bill is blocked by Democrats.
If the proposal is viable as legislation it would be smarter for immigration restrictionists to lobby Representatives and Senators to modify the two areas where they object most strongly – the clearing of the 4 million immigration backlog and the lack of E-Verify – instead of rejecting an otherwise good package totally.
But the chances of immigration legislation seem poor because both sides now have powerful incentives to watch the plan die. The Democrats seem to be calculating they can get a better deal after the 2018 elections while Trump sees a big persuasion opportunity to expose them as hypocrites for running on DACA but then throwing objections when a tangible deal is finally laid out on the card table.
That leaves us with the second outcome; a Democratic filibuster.
In that event, the current negotiations are really about Trump and the Democrats setting each other up for who gets the blame later on. If this immigration talk is all posturing then immigration restrictionists should tacitly endorse a modified version of Trump’s proposal, one that deals with the backlog and E-Verify issues. Meanwhile restrictionists should direct most of their objections at the Democrats for obstructionism instead of Trump.
This will setup restrictionist red lines for an immigration debate in 2019. If Republicans perform well in 2018 by holding the House and netting Senate seats, restrictionists will be positioned to see a more Conservative proposal land on Trump’s desk.