President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer have reached a tentative agreement to beef up border security in exchange for providing a pathway to citizenship for young immigrants known as “Dreamers,” according to two congressional aides briefed on the meeting.
The framework, hatched at an unusual dinner hosted by Trump, would exclude funding for the border wall, Pelosi and Schumer said. And notably the agreement does not thus far include House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.), whom Trump spurned for Pelosi and Schumer on a fiscal deal last week.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders pushed back on Democrats’ claims that Trump had backed off the wall.
“While DACA and border security were both discussed, excluding the wall was certainly not agreed to,” she tweeted.
An aide with knowledge of the meeting said Trump made clear to Schumer and Pelosi that he would continue pushing for the wall, just not as part of this deal. The agreement came as a surprise to most Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, according to two GOP aides, the second time Trump has blindsided them this month after his deal with Pelosi and Schumer on the debt ceiling.
The sources briefed on the meeting declined to estimate how much border security would be provided under the plan or what the specifics would entail, a key part of any agreement, given the wide range of possibilities that border security could contain. This spring Congress approved more than $1 billion in new border security.
The legislative fix for the dreamers would be passage of the “Dream Act,” which would offer certain young undocumented immigrants an eventual pathway to citizenship, the sources said.
The leaders and the president also did not agree on when such a package would be passed; both chambers of Congress are controlled by Republicans. But one person briefed on the meeting said Trump and the Democrats want it done “sooner rather than later.”
Trump may still push later for the border wall in a spending bill in December, according to congressional Republican aides, but White House staff publicly backed off that path this week as well. Instead, Trump focused on cutting a deal with the political opposition on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, an action by former President Barack Obama that currently offers legal protections to nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the country.
“We had a very productive meeting at the White House with the president,” Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a joint statement. “The discussion focused on DACA. We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.”
A White House readout did not mention the deal Democrats say they hatched. A White House official said the leaders, Trump and several of his top aides discussed tax reform, border security, infrastructure and trade.
“President Donald Trump had a constructive working dinner with Senate and House minority leaders,” the official said. “This is a positive step toward the president’s strong commitment to bipartisan solutions for the issues most important to all Americans. The administration looks forward to continuing these conversations with leadership on both sides of the aisle.”
In an earlier meeting between House leaders, Pelosi told Ryan that Democrats want to see action on DACA in the next few weeks — a deadline most congressional Republicans consider unrealistic.
House Republican leaders insist they have six months, until March, to codify protections for Dreamers. But Democrats want to see a legislative solution by Oct. 5, the deadline for current DACA recipients whose permits expire during the six-month period to renew their applications.
The meeting kicked off with a long discussion of trade and China, a second aide briefed on the meeting said.