Senate Democrats cave, provide votes based on McConnell’s empty promise

For now, the fate of many DREAMers hang in the balance.

Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Senate, according to Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), will vote in favor of a bill to reopen the government on Monday and fund it for three weeks.

“We will vote today to reopen the government to continue negotiating a global agreement with the commitment that if an agreement isn’t reached by February the 8th, the Senate will immediately proceed to consideration of legislation dealing with DACA,” Schumer said.

The vote came after a morning meeting where key senators, mainly moderates, met with leadership to strike a deal.

“It’s abundantly clear that the Senate cannot make progress on any of these crucial matters until the government is reopened,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on the Senate floor Monday morning. “We need to move forward and the first step is ending the shutdown. It’s evident that this government shutdown is doing nothing, absolutely nothing, to generate bipartisan progress on the issues the American people care about.”

But the compromise hinges on nothing more than a promise that McConnell will follow through on his intentions to bring a DACA fix before the March deadline. This doesn’t amount to much. He made the same promise to Jeff Flake in December to win his vote for tax legislation.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who holds hardline views on immigration, said he hadn’t heard anything new in what McConnell is saying on immigration, beyond what he has said repeatedly for weeks.

There is no agreement in the House to take up any DACA legislation, even if it passes the Senate. If the House does not consider the legislation, or votes against legislation passed by the Senate, it will have have no impact on the 800,000 young people whose lives are now in limbo. 

In spite of this, Schumer said on the Senate floor shortly before the Monday vote that there is a “real pathway” forward to get a bipartisan DACA fix.

“I’m confident that we can get the 60 votes in the Senate for a DACA bill. And now there is a real pathway to get a bill on the floor and through the senate,” Schumer said. “It is a good solution, and I will vote for it. I’m incredibly grateful to the bipartisan group that has come together in recent days to renew the immigration debate with a sense of urgency.”

McConnell’s spokesman made clear that he is not agreeing to vote on any specific legislation, just a process that could end in stalemate.

Democrats who took the McConnell deal include Senators from states where Trump won in 2016 and face re-election in the 2018 midterms. Even Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), a vocal advocate for immigrants in the Senate, reportedly was reportedly convinced by McConnell’s promise.

Some Democrats, seeing that the deal had won over the approval of Durbin, followed his lead.

Meanwhile, the fate of 800,000 DACA recipients remains in balance. By the March 5 deadline to renew the program — which was ended by President Donald Trump in September — 22,000 immigrants will have lost their DACA protections. After the March 5 deadline, thousands more will lose their protections each day.