It’s unclear what the weather forecast holds for January 19 in Washington, D.C.
Run the different forecasting models: European. Pioneer. GFS. Or just peak out the window.
The barometric pressure is dropping. A storm could be coming.
A meteorological “bomb cyclone” ravaged the East Coast last week. A political bomb cyclone could wreck Washington come January 19. That’s the date Congress has to fund government operations and avoid a government shutdown.
Top congressional leaders from both political parties huddled last Wednesday in the office of House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., with White House budget Director Mick Mulvaney and White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short. Everyone spoke in positive terms following the conclave.
“All those talks, I think, are going well,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “Nobody wants to shut the government down on either side. We’re in intense talks about trying to deal with all of these issues.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a joint statement following the hour-long session: “We had a positive and productive meeting, and all parties have agreed to continue discussing a path forward to quickly resolve all of the issues ahead of us.”
There are plenty of areas of disagreement over government funding, bolstering Pentagon dollars and securing what Democrats refer to as “parity” when it comes to enhancing non-defense spending.
But the biggest issue of all comes down to the construction of a border wall and a fix for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). DACA is a President Barack Obama-era policy that granted some persons the right to remain in the U.S. legally if they arrived as minors with parents.
This is why the bomb cyclone brews, somewhere off the Potomac.
When asked if she was pushing for a DACA fix in bipartisan meeting in Ryan’s office Wednesday, Pelosi replied “always.”
President Trump and GOP congressional leaders met at Camp David over the weekend for a policy summit.
Trump signaled his desire for Congress to author a major immigration reform bill that alters “chain” migration for family members entering the U.S. and eliminates a diversity lottery system.
The president also pushed for his promised border wall. But he appeared to hold out on a final DACA solution unless lawmakers revamped immigration policy.
“We all want DACA to happen,” he said. “But we also want great security for our country.”
The president, GOP leaders, key West Wing staff and some Cabinet members covered a lot of ground at Camp David – including talk about health care and the midterm elections, particularly how involved Trump may be in GOP primaries or campaigning for candidates.
But everyone knows what the big subject is.
“(A) lot of discussion on DACA, frankly,” said White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
That shouldn’t surprise many. McConnell indicated at his year-end press conference that a DACA conversation was imminent.
“We have a commitment on a bipartisan basis to address the DACA issue,” he said. “We’ll devote floor time to that in January.”
But nobody is sure in what form.
On Thursday, the president summoned a small group of Republican senators to the White House to discuss immigration policy and legislative approaches for DACA. Sens. James Lankford, Oklahoma and Thom Tillis, North Carolina, were among the participants. The duo would like to forge an immigration compromise.
Upon returning to the Capitol, Lankford said the challenge on immigration policy is “scope.” And he said negotiators were “trying to narrow the issues. Get it as small as it can be.”
There’s no agreement on what should constitute “chain” migration.
“We have to figure out what it means,” Lankford said.
In other words, how many relatives, if any, could qualify for admission? Are there certain conditions? What about people coming from certain countries?
Another area may require clarification, too.
“Everyone has their own definition of a border wall,” Lankford said.
That’s for sure.
Many of Trump’s supporters want to see stone masons out in the mountains bordering the Rio Grande River, toiling with trowels. It’s unclear what it would entail just to build infrastructure and roads to reach some of these locations.
Border security experts explain that a “wall” could include drones, vehicular surveillance and an electronic frontier. And the cost?
“Mexico will pay,” said the president at Camp David. “In some form, Mexico will pay for the wall.”
OK then. So much for all of those debates over spending on Capitol Hill.
For his part, Tillis returned to the Capitol on Thursday, buoyed about the White House immigration session.
“The president showed leadership by wanting to get people in a room,” he said.
Was there concern Trump could change his mind about how to approach this nettlesome issue?
“No,” Tillis responded. He said the plan is to advance an immigration package as a “standalone” bill and not conflate it with the broader debate of government funding.
If Republicans can successfully erect their own “wall” to partition the spending battle from DACA and immigration, great.
But it’s far from certain if Republicans can fund government operations with just GOP votes. There could be too many defections. And that’s where the Democrats come in and perhaps demand DACA.
“We intend to be reasonable,” Schumer said. “But we don’t intend to abandon our priorities just as our Republican friends don’t want to abandon theirs. We have some leverage.”
The Senate margin is now 51 Republicans to 49 senators who are either Democrats or caucus with that party. The election last month of Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., narrowed the partisan breakdown. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., still hasn’t returned to Washington from his convalescence. The attendance of Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., has also been scarce due to health concerns.
And those are just the problems for Republicans in the Senate.
“In the House, they cannot pass a bill without Democratic support,” Schumer recently suggested. “They have divisions on the Republican side between the defense hawks. The deficit hawks. The people who want a lot of (disaster) money for Texas and Florida. So that gives the House Democrats leverage.”
Remember that Trump’s base could erupt if he gives in to Democrats on DACA or immigration policy.
You see why a political bomb cyclone is racing up the coast.
Again, time is short. Can they work this out? If you believe they can, perhaps frozen iguanas will fall from the trees.