It may be obscured by the headlines, but the Kabuki dance of intransigence and hostility underway between President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats contains the seeds of a breakthrough that would reopen the government and provide both sides with an honorable way forward. Honorable, that is, if both sides could muster the spine to rebuff their own noisiest partisans and do some old-fashioned horse-trading.
Cut through the fog of invective in the president's tweets, and through House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's, D-Calif., crisp return volleys, and an emerging compromise is faintly visible. Trump's offer to hold off for three years on deporting 700,000 "dreamers" and more than 300,000 legal Central American and Haitian residents who have enjoyed temporary protected status in the United States - both of whom he has sought to strip of protections - may look like scant recompense for the $5.7 billion he wants as down payment on his border wall. Yet by coupling his own priority with that of many Democrats, he has constructively set the outlines, if not the terms, of a plausible compromise.
Pelosi, carrying the banner for the Democrats, insists the government be reopened before her party will negotiate. Yet meanwhile she has floated a sweetener: more than $1 billion on border-related spending. Granted, none of that would go to construct a wall, but at least the geography is germane, along with the subject: security. She has yet to make a counteroffer on the dreamers, who grew up in this country after their parents brought them here as children. She should.
A deal would demand harder concessions all around. For Trump, that means a more secure future for the dreamers, and for more of them: not just the 700,000 who have registered for work permits under the Obama-era program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals but an additional million or so who are eligible for that program. They deserve not just a three-year reprieve, as the president offered, but a pathway to legal status or citizenship. Either one would provide the most important thing: a certain future.
That might be tough for the hardcore nativists in the Trump coalition to swallow, but no tougher than it would be for many devoutly pro-immigration Democrats to accept funding for a border wall. Let the two sides hash out that impasse in the legislative arena — that's what congressional conference committees are for. In the meantime, Congress could immediately reopen other parts of government.
The No Dealers are carrying the day — for now. A major impediment is White House aide Stephen Miller, on whose initiative a Senate bill to reopen the government is freighted with poison pills. They include measures that would erect formidable new obstacles for Central American asylum seekers, for example forcing them to apply for asylum not in the United States but at home — where many face immediate risks to their lives — and imposing severe restrictions on the criteria by which asylum would be granted.
That's red meat for Trump's nativist base, just as Pelosi's rhetoric about walls being "immoral" is for Democrats on the left. If a deal is to be struck, both sides will need to spurn those camps in favor of those who prefer solutions.
— The Washington Post