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House Democrats divided on backing budget deal without DACA

Lindsey McPherson, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- House Democrats are divided on whether to support a sweeping budget deal that includes a lot of their spending priorities but provides no path forward on immigration.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi held the House floor for eight hours Wednesday to make it clear that she wouldn't support the deal without a commitment from Speaker Paul D. Ryan for an immigration vote that would be "bipartisan" and "transparent."

Ryan has not offered such a commitment, but some House Democrats say they're likely to vote for the budget deal anyway.

"We're going to look through it, the staff is combing over it, etc., but I'm leaning towards a 'yes' vote on it," said Connecticut Rep. John B. Larson, a former Democratic Caucus chairman. "But I'm also strongly in favor of a separate vote on DACA too, which we hope the Senate will deliver too through (Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell's promises."

Democrats are seeking to protect the so-called Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, who could face deportation if Congress does not act to replace the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, scheduled to end March 5.

With bipartisan negotiations on immigration continuing to bear little fruit, many House Democrats saw an opportunity to leverage their votes on the budget deal for a commitment to an immigration vote in the House similar to one McConnell has offered the Senate -- so long as the government remains open.

Some Democrats had begun talking about the leverage maneuver earlier this week but Pelosi didn't officially sign on until Wednesday after a caucus meeting on the topic. With most of her caucus supporting that position, she went public, issuing a statement and holding the floor for a record-breaking eight-hour continuous speech.

But several Democrats noted her statement was carefully worded so as not to bind the entire caucus.

"Leader Pelosi has herself said the bill coming out of the Senate is a good bill, but we need some assurance from the speaker, Mr. Ryan, that we will be able to address and debate DACA," Virginia Rep. Gerald E. Connolly said. "She hasn't directly said, 'If not one, then not the other.' But she certainly has expressed her concern while blessing the content of the bill coming our way."

That vagueness left some Democrats thinking Pelosi was effectively caving.

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