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'They're cowards': Trump calls out Congress on immigration, fumes 2018 momentum squandered

Anita Kumar and Franco Ordonez, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

Democrats have insisted on using a broader budget agreement that would lift previously imposed spending caps and partially fund Trump's promised border wall as part of any deal to protect Dreamers.

The House passed a bill Tuesday, days before the government runs out of money, to fund most federal agencies until March 23. But on Wednesday, Senate leaders reached an agreement on a two-year budget deal that would increase spending but without money for a border wall or protections for Dreamers. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California immediately said she would not agree to a budget deal that did not come with the pledge of a debate on Dreamers.

So, potentially back to Square One even though the pact agreed to by both parties would lift statutory budget limits by more than $200 billion and provide tens of billions of dollars in disaster relief funding.

"If it takes fixing DACA to get a border wall then they're frustrated," said a second former Trump adviser who is in close contact with the White House.

The White House wants to finish immigration and tackle another issue, perhaps a $1.5 trillion plan to repair the nation's highways, airports, dams and bridges, before lawmakers turn their attention to the midterm election. The longer the immigration saga drags on, the longer it will take to pivot to other issues and the fall midterms.

"They want to get this done with and be done with it," said Scott Jennings, political director for former President George W. Bush who is close to the Trump White House. "It makes it hard to move onto other things."

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Democrats quickly retort that they have twice struck a tentative agreement with Trump to protect Dreamers in exchange for increased border security only to have Trump back out. The White House says Trump has been clear he wants a larger immigration package that includes drastic cuts to the number of immigrants who could be sponsored by family and the diversity lottery program that awards green cards to immigrants.

"My view up until recently has been, 'No, no, you people need to work this out,' " the administration official said. "That is what the U.S. Congress is supposed to do. Finally, I went to the president and said ... we need to get something out there. Your position."

Trump is pushing Congress to abide by his March 5 deadline but five Republican congressional aides familiar with the negotiations say lawmakers feel less urgency now. That's because a legal challenge has forced the administration to resume taking applications for temporary, renewable work permits for DACA recipients. If the Supreme Court takes the case, it could rule in June, leading to a lack of urgency to reach a deal next month.

"There's a drop in temperature in the need to do this," said a senior GOP aide. "The deadline isn't as much of a deadline."

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