In a bid to break the shutdown impasse and fund his long-promised border wall, President Donald Trump on Saturday offered to extend temporary protection for young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children. But while Trump cast the move as a "common-sense compromise," Democrats were quick to dismiss it at a "non-starter."
Trump declared from the White House that "both sides in Washington must simply come together," adding that he was there "to break the logjam and provide Congress with a path forward to end the government shutdown and solve the crisis on the southern border."
Hoping to put pressure on Democrats, the White House billed the announcement as a major step forward. But Trump did not budge on his $5.7 billion demand for the wall and, in essence, offered to temporarily roll-back some of his own hawkish immigration actions — actions that have been blocked by federal courts.
Following a week marked by his pointed clashes with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, it was not clear if Trump's offer would lead to serious steps to reopen the government, shut for a record 29 days. Trump's move came as hundreds of thousands of federal workers go without paychecks, with many enduring financial hardship. Many public services are unavailable to Americans during the closure.
Democrats dismissed Trump's proposal even before his formal remarks. Pelosi said earlier in the day that the expected proposal was "a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives, each of which is unacceptable." The California Democrat said the effort could not pass the House and again called on Trump to reopen the government.
Democrats made their own move late Friday to break the impasse when they pledged to provide hundreds of millions of dollars more for border security.
Seeking to cast the plan as a bipartisan way forward, Trump said Saturday he was incorporating ideas from "rank-and-file" Democrats, as top Democrats made clear they had not been consulted. He also said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would bring the legislation to a vote this week, though Democrats appeared likely to block it. McConnell had previously stated that no vote should be held in the Senate until Trump and Democrats agreed on a bill.
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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer described the proposal as simply "more hostage taking."
Trump's remarks from the Diplomatic Room marked the second time he has addressed the nation as the partial shutdown drags on. On this occasion, he sought to strike a diplomatic tone, emphasizing trust and the need to work across the aisle. But he still maintained that a border barrier was needed to block what he describes as the flow of drugs and crime into the country, though he described it as a "steel barriers in high-priority locations."
The proposal was met with immediate criticism by some conservative corners, including NumbersUSA, which seeks to reduce both legal and illegal immigration to the U.S. "The offer the President announced today is a loser for the forgotten American workers who were central to his campaign promises," said Roy Beck, the group's president.
At the other end of the political spectrum, Trump's offer was panned by progressive groups, with Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, calling it a "one-sided proposal."
Trump embraced the shutdown in December in large part because of angry warnings from his most ardent supporters that he was passing up on his last, best shot to build the wall before Democrat took control of the House in the new year. After his announcement Saturday, some supporters appeared unhappy with his effort to bridge the divide with Democrats.
"Trump proposes amnesty," tweeted conservative firebrand Ann Coulter. "We voted for Trump and got Jeb!"
In a briefing with reporters, Vice President Mike Pence defended the proposal from criticism from the right. "This is not an amnesty bill," he insisted.
White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney insisted that declaring a national emergency to circumvent Congress — Trump has threatened to do so — remains on the table, but added that the "best way to fix this is through legislation."
Mulvaney also sought to increase the pressure on congressional Democrats in advance of Tuesday, the deadline for the next federal pay period, saying: "If the bill is filibustered on Tuesday...people will not get paid."
Trump's son-in-law and senior aide, Jared Kushner, has led the work on the proposals, said three people familiar with White House thinking who were not authorized to speak publicly. Some said Pence and Mulvaney and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen were involved, too.
To ensure wall funding, Trump said he would extend protections for young people brought to the country illegally as children, known as "Dreamers," as well as for those with temporary protected status after fleeing countries affected by natural disasters or violence.
Administration officials said the protections would apply only to those currently in the Obama-era program shielding them from deportation, and the temporary protected status would apply to those who currently have it and have been in the U.S. since 2011. That means people from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Haiti — countries that saw the status revoked since Trump took office — would get a reprieve.
Democrats criticized Trump's proposal because it didn't seem to be a permanent solution for those immigrants and because it includes money for the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, which the party strongly opposes. Democrats also want Trump to reopen government before talks can start.
Trump previously dismissed a deal involving those young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, saying he would prefer to see first whether the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, survived a court challenge.
On Friday, the Supreme Court took no action on the Trump administration's request to decide by early summer whether Trump's bid to end that program was legal, meaning it probably will survive at least another year.
But during a recent trip to the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump hinted at the possibility, saying he would consider working on the wall and DACA "simultaneously."
A previous attempt to reach a compromise that addressed the status of "Dreamers" broke down a year ago as a result of escalating White House demands.
Associated Press writers Alan Fram and Matthew Daly in Washington and Colleen Long in Brooklyn, New York, contributed to this report.