The White House and many Congressional Republicans attempted Friday to pin the potential government shutdown on Senate Democrats, trying to name it the “Schumer Shutdown” after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). But their strategy was undermined by a prominent member of the president’s own party.
Lindsey Graham, the senior senator from South Carolina, told MSNBC that he is still a “no” on the legislation passed by the House on Thursday that would keep the government open for 30 days but do nothing to protect beneficiaries of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA provided protection to more than 750,000 people who were brought as undocumented immigrants to the United States as children, but President Donald Trump’s administration has moved to end the protections starting in March.
“I’m not going to continue this game with DACA recipients’ lives,” Graham explained. “A lot of people on my side say ‘What’s the urgency?’ Well, put yourself in their shoes. You’re a teacher somewhere, you don’t know if March the 5th you’ll be kicked out of the country you call home. This idea that we’ve got plenty of time — I don’t like that. If you’re one these recipients you feel like we should have done this yesterday. And 80 percent of the American people are actually with us.”
Trump earlier this week rejected a bipartisan deal that would have protected DACA beneficiaries and cleared the way for a funding bill, after initially expressing a willingness to sign such a deal. Graham laid the blame for the impasse on Trump’s flip-flop and his listening to bad advice from two people: White House aide Stephen Miller and freshman Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR).
“I think the change comes about from people like Mr. Miller,” Graham said. “Mr. Miller is well-known in the Senate for having views that are outside the mainstream.” Graham observed that the “Steven Miller approach to immigration has no viability.”
He expressed openness to solutions, but said the Trump White House is taking a “a hard-edged approach” that would not fly even in the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate. “The Tom Cotton approach has no viability here. He’s become sort of the Steve King of the Senate. I like Tom but on immigration, he’s putting something on the table that there’s just no market for in phase one.” (Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is an immigration hardliner with a long history of racist comments.)
Graham is not the only Congressional Republican who feels this way. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) tweeted on Friday morning that she opposes her party’s continuing resolution bill “because #Dreamers cannot wait for the promise of ‘tomorrow.'”