Senate progressives with secure seats are prepared to allow a government shutdown if Republicans refuse to address the fate of Dreamers in the government spending bill, while centrists up for reelection in 2018 likely fear the political consequences of an unyielding stance.
While Democrats are relatively united in their desire for a legislative fix to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shields illegal immigrants brought to the country as minors from deportation, they are divided over whether to press the issue as a non-negotiable in the impending spending bill.
Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, who is up for reelection in 2018, told The Hill, “I still don’t think government shutdown is a good thing,” adding that he asked Schumer to “do the right thing” and continue negotiations.
Most moderate Democrats have remained silent on the issue of whether they would oppose any spending bill in the absence of a DACA provision, likely waiting to take their cue from leadership.
Their lack of commitment stands in stark opposition to the five progressive senators who have vowed to oppose any spending legislation — even a short-term bill like the one currently on the table — no protection for Dreamers is included.
Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Bernie Sanders of Vermont have been extremely outspoken on the issue, repeatedly asserting their opposition to any spending bill that neglects Dreamers.
They’re joined by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who called the issue one of “basic decency and morality” and last month, and said “I want solutions to protect these kids, and won’t vote for a spending bill that doesn’t include one.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has also committed herself to opposing any spending bill that doesn’t address the fate of those previously shielded by DACA.
As the Dec. 8 shutdown deadline approaches, the Senate is expected to vote on a short-term stopgap spending bill Friday that would keep the government funded until Dec. 22. Senate Republicans, many of whom have expressed a willingness to negotiate a legislative extension to the DACA program, have pointed out that no Dreamers will be in danger of deportation until March, leaving time for negotiations.
Republicans must secure the vote of at least eight Democrats in order to overcome a filibuster and pass the bill.
GOP leadership has expressed a willingness to include protections for dreamers in the long term spending bill in exchange for enhanced border security measures. But Democrats’ willingness to cooperate will likely hinge on how extensive those protections are as many of the aforementioned progressive lawmakers have established a “clean” DACA extension, absent any security measures or merit based reforms, as their ultimate goal.
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