Story highlights

Hardline immigration Republicans pulled the rug out from under the 'group of six'

The government shutdown odds are as high as they've ever been under Trump

CNN —  

Put Thursday in the proper perspective: President Donald Trump, who said definitively he would sign what Congress sends him, flatly rejected the lone (serious) bipartisan effort to reach a resolution on the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

And he did it by:

  • A. Surprising the two members of the “group of six” by having hardline immigration Republicans waiting for them when they arrived at the White House, all of whom opposed their agreement in principle.
  • B. Speaking in extraordinarily vulgar terms about a central piece of the proposal – one of the key compromises to address the President’s “four pillars” that need to be in any final deal.

In other words, the President, and Republicans in Congress, deliberately pulled the rug out from under the “group of six” proposal, in the most definitive of ways (with Friday morning’s presidential tweets attempting to bury it six feet under for good measure).

And this was a coordinated effort by Republicans who saw the proposal as a complete non-starter.

So here’s where lawmakers are right now, seven days from a potential shutdown, on getting an actual deal (not an agreement, or an agreement in principle, or like-minded people thinking alike): nowhere close.

House and Senate lawmakers are all gone for the long weekend. Keep an eye on phone calls and staff talks, but we likely won’t get a clear glimpse of the players again until Tuesday – four days before government funding runs out.

And what are the odds of a government shutdown: As high as they’ve ever been in the Trump administration.

What the “shithole” comment does to negotiations

It’s still an open question, but Democrats do see a dynamic shift here. Aides – and it’s worth noting, most directly involved in the talks were very quiet Thursday night, willing to let this just sit out there on its own – say it clearly hardens the resolve on the negotiators, but also, as one put it, “lays bare the true motivations and thinking of a president who tried to use words like ‘love’ and how much he cared in front of cameras. You tell me who the public will blame if this doesn’t get done.”

Of note: The Republicans who are players in the talks – including those in the room for the comment – were silent last night, beyond a statement attacking the group of six proposal as “not serious.”

Just to make this clear: When CNN reported Thursday that GOP leaders in both chambers had moved hard away from having a DACA deal in place before January 19, it was precisely because the above dynamics were already in motion.

GOP leaders had moved sharply away from anything the “group of six” were working on, and were informed the White House would be with them. That’s precisely what happened when that agreement was presented. Republicans say it’s just a recognition of their very complicated reality.

“We can’t do anything that can be called a ‘Flake bill,’” one House GOP aide said flatly. “Our guys would burn the place down.”

“Six people who agree on something agreed on something,” another Senate GOP aide said. “That doesn’t make it a deal and it certainly doesn’t fly with our guys.”

Or, as Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranked Republican in the Senate, put it: “Six people can’t agree to something that will bind the Congress.”

Best sidebar on Capitol Hill

Which one of Trump’s best Senate friends wins in the battle for his heart and mind on immigration: Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina or Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas. The behind the scenes on this is fascinating. And on Thursday, with major help from allies in the White House, Cotton got a clear win.

The Group of No. 2s – Cornyn, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer – is where the center of gravity has shifted toward, at least in the eyes of senior Republicans in both chambers.

What’s still out there

The problem? They’ve been together for all of about five days. But in what one GOP aide pointed to as a positive: “They’re leadership. They’ve got juice. And you needed something to blow up before a real deal could come together. And that’s what happened Thursday.”

What was in the Group of 6 proposal?

Per two sources with direct knowledge:

  • $1.6 billion toward a border fence, with another $1.1 bill in border security money for technology/resources/manpower
  • A 10- or 12-year pathway to citizenship for DREAMers, the length depending on whether they’d applied for protections already or not.
  • Parents of DACA recipients would not be eligible for citizenship, but could receive protected status in three-year increments
  • An overhaul of the diversity visa program to address those who have had their Temporary Protected Status removed, and those selected on merit from low immigration countries