Chris Chmielenski, director of content and activism at NumbersUSA, which pushes for immigration reductions, is in touch with negotiators and agrees the deadline has become fuzzy. "I don't think anyone thinks March 5 is the hard deadline anymore."
Kelly told reporters this week that he would not recommend extending the deadline but three people in close contact with the White House said they think Trump would extend it by a month or two if he thought lawmakers were getting close to a deal.
"The president is a dealmaker," said the first former Trump adviser. "If he feels both sides are close I wouldn't be surprised if the president extended it."
Trump suggested last month that he would consider it. "If we need a little more time, we'll take a little more time," he told CNBC.
That was then, before exasperation set in.
Frustration, though, goes both ways€" and Congress has pushed back on the White House by blaming Trump for waiting too long to release his own proposal and for criticizing lawmakers instead of working with them. "They haven't shown a lot of urgency," a senior GOP aide said.
Besides, congressional aides say, Congress needs time to craft agreements because of the sheer number of people involved in the process. Plus they have been busy with one major issue after another for months, from health care to tax cuts to spending bills.
"They may express consternation with it but ... this is a pretty regular legislative process for Congress," said a second senior House GOP aide, adding that Congress is working faster on immigration than it did on tax cuts.
In the House, members are attending a series of meetings on the immigration proposal with the most support, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte's bill, which incorporates more enforcement measures than the White House plan. In the Senate, some members are working toward a compromise while others are putting the White House proposal into the form of a bill.
"That's a tried and true strategy to blame Congress," said the first aide said. "There are only so many things Congress can do at one time."
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