- The Washington Times - Monday, January 15, 2018

PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Trump laid the groundwork Monday to blame Democrats if the government careens into a partial shutdown at the end of this week, saying their decision to turn their back on him in ongoing negotiations is a recipe for failure.

The White House is increasingly confident it can win a shutdown showdown, saying the situation is entirely different from 2013, when Republicans took the bulk of blame for the shutdown.

“Look, Republicans control the House and the Senate and the White House. We don’t shut down the government. The only people who can possibly shut down the government are the Democrats,” a White House official said. “They’ve been very clear on this. It’s what they want.”

The strategizing comes as Democrats and some of their Republican allies said they will work around the president to try to pass an immigration deal this week, hoping to build bipartisan support and isolate a White House playing defense after Mr. Trump’s latest gaffe.

Both sides are eyeing a Friday deadline, when the next spending bill is due — and which Democrats have also said is their self-imposed deadline for approving full legal status for illegal immigrant Dreamers. Without a deal, many Democrats say, they will refuse to vote for the spending bill, risking a government shutdown.

Mr. Trump took to Twitter on Monday to blast the chief Democratic negotiator, Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois. Not only did Mr. Trump tag him with a derisive nickname, but he also said the senator is standing in the way of replacing the Obama-era DACA deportation amnesty and hurting the chances to get a spending deal for the Pentagon.

“Senator Dicky Durbin totally misrepresented what was said at the DACA meeting. Deals can’t get made when there is no trust! Durbin blew DACA and is hurting our Military,” the president tweeted.

Mr. Trump’s comment about misrepresentation referred to a meeting last week where Mr. Durbin and Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, presented a deal they had worked out to grant a generous pathway to citizenship for Dreamers that goes well beyond Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

The plan cut Mr. Trump’s border wall funding request by 90 percent and made almost no changes to chain migration. The plan did eliminate the Diversity Visa Lottery, as Mr. Trump requested — but pumped those visas into a new amnesty for would-be illegal immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and other countries that suffered natural disasters or wars over the past 20 years.

It was that proposed amnesty that sparked the big controversy out of last week’s meeting. Mr. Durbin said Mr. Trump called the nations “sh—hole countries.” Other lawmakers in the meeting dispute that account, as does the president.

Mr. Graham, who was in the meeting but hasn’t disclosed exactly what he heard, said Monday that it is up to the president to get beyond the sniping and help reach a final agreement.

“Mr. President, close the deal — 80 percent of Americans want to give the DACA kids a better life, 80 percent of Americans want to secure the border and fix our broken immigration system,” Mr. Graham said in an interview with WIS-TV.

“It’s not going to be done by tweeting,” Mr. Graham added.

Mr. Durbin repeated his claims about Mr. Trump’s comments and said the White House should release any tapes of the conversation.

But he insisted he is less focused on the president’s past comments than he is on getting a deal.

Democrats have pointed to Mr. Trump’s comments last week that he would sign whatever bill Congress sends him, but the White House said that statement isn’t a blanket approval.

“He’ll sign whatever they bring him if it includes the principles he wants. That’s what he was saying,” the White House official told The Washington Times, adding that the Graham-Durbin plan “clearly didn’t do that.”

Even before the meeting last week, Democrats were under intense pressure to refuse to negotiate with Mr. Trump. Some on the far left have said ending the visa lottery or spending any money for the border wall is a non-starter.

After Mr. Trump’s comments, Democratic leaders said Congress should refuse all of the president’s priorities and instead approve legislation known as the Dream Act, a full amnesty that would grant as many as 2 million illegal immigrants citizenship rights.

Republican leaders have ruled that out, saying any bill must have serious new border security enhancements, and must make changes to other parts of the flawed immigration system.

Some House Republicans are pushing a plan that would crack down on abuse of the asylum system, promote faster deportation for new illegal immigrants, punish sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with deportation officers and require all businesses to use E-Verify, a government system, to make sure their employees are authorized to work.

That bill would also grant DACA recipients a more permanent status but no special pathway to citizenship.

Mr. Trump has said that plan should be the starting point for negotiations, but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said it had “zero” chance of success.

“It’s a non-starter. I wouldn’t waste my time on it,” she said.

Mrs. Pelosi has, however, backed an effort this week to force a vote in the House to formally censure Mr. Trump over his disparaging remarks.

“The goal is to put the Congress of the United States on record that we don’t approve of racism,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat and one of the leaders of the censure movement, said on CNN.

That symbolic spanking effort is likely to fail in the Republican-controlled House — and it may be further poisoning the chances for striking a deal.

“We can have disagreements based on policy, but once we make an attack on the person and calling a person racist, it kind of destroys the dialogue,” Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, said on Fox News.

Stephen Dinan reported from Washington. Sally Persons contributed to this article.

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