When it comes to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, there is little daylight among most Hispanic members of Congress, regardless of party affiliation.
President Donald Trump has said he will phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, but gave Congress a six-month window to come up with a legislative fix. By and large, Hispanic lawmakers from both parties criticized the president’s decision and said Congress needs to protect immigrants covered by DACA, also known as Dreamers, so named after the proposed DREAM Act that would provide them with a path to legal status.
“They’re as American as apple pie, except for the paperwork, and to think we’re going to deport them back to whatever country, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador — this makes no sense because they’ve been working, they’ve been studying; now they’re productive members of our society,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told Roll Call recently.
“I hope we can do the right thing. I hope that we can find a permanent legislative fix for these Dreamers,” the Florida Republican added. Ros-Lehtinen, who came to the United States from Cuba when she was eight, is the first Latina and first Cuban-American elected to Congress.
On immigration, she has company among Republicans in her own state. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who represents 25th District that neighbors Ros-Lehtinen’s Miami-based 27th, was long a member of a bipartisan working group on immigration. And the Sunshine State’s junior senator, Republican Marco Rubio, has co-sponsored comprehensive immigration legislation in the past with Democrats.
Rep. Ruben Kihuen was undocumented when he first came to the United States from Mexico as an eight-year-old. The Nevada Democrat pointed out that divided government produced the immigration laws that provided him the pathway to citizenship that eventually enabled him to run for Congress.
“That shows you how powerful and how great this country is. That it is willing to give an opportunity to an immigrant family who is willing to work hard for it,” Kihuen said, adding, “All we wanted was an opportunity in the land of opportunity.”
“I’m a Democrat serving in Congress. Yet I’m here today as a U.S. citizen thanks to a Republican president,” he said.
Getting such a result became that much harder with the manner in which Trump acted, said Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, the first Latina elected to the Senate.
“It’s a manufactured crisis,” the Nevada Democrat said. “You have the administration rescinding [DACA]. If they really wanted to address this issue, they would have said, … ‘Let’s work on this. Pass the DREAM Act. I’ll sign the bill. Let’s get it done.’ And then we work on our colleagues to really show them why this is so important.”
Ros-Lehtinen is frustrated at what she called mixed messages from Trump, who made harsh enforcement on immigration a touchstone of his campaign and early administration, but now says he has a lot of affection for Dreamers and might revisit the policy.
“It makes it harder for us to know what to do,” she said. “It doesn’t make it harder for me, but some of my colleagues say, ‘Well, does that mean maybe I don’t have to take this tough vote? Because he’s going to revisit it anyway?’”
Rep. Ruben Gallego, the first Colombian-American elected to Congress, sees it as part of his job to push colleagues about issues like immigration important to his constituents and fellow Hispanics.
“It reminds you of why I’m here and the other members are here advocating for the Latino community,” the Arizona Democrat said. “Because I believe if we weren’t here, there wouldn’t be as strong an advocacy as you see now.”
House and Senate tax writers plan to release the week of Sept. 25 an outline detailing their points of consensus with the administration on how to overhaul the tax code, Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Wednesday.
The Wisconsin Republican said House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady announced the intent to release more details of the still-developing tax overhaul plan during Wednesday’s House Republican Conference meeting.
“Then the tax writing committees are going to take feedback and input and then they’re going to go produce their bills in the weeks ahead,” Ryan told reporters after the conference meeting. “And so this is the beginning of a process.”
While Ryan suggested the outline would reflect consensus of the tax writing committees as a whole, Brady said it would be a product of the “Big Six,” according to a person who was in the room for his announcement. Members of that group include Brady, Ryan, Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn.
“The whole point of all of this is the House, the Senate and the White House are starting from the same page and the same outline, and then the tax writers are going to take it from there on the details,” Ryan said.
Members leaving the meeting said they got the impression a vote on the budget resolution, which would be needed for Republicans to move a tax overhaul through the reconciliation process, would not come until after the tax outline is unveiled.
Many members, especially hard-line conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus, have requested more details on what the tax bill would look like before they can commit to voting on the budget.
Brady told the GOP conference Wednesday that he understands and appreciates that request because it shows members are eager to get a tax overhaul passed this year and are serious about getting the details right, according to the person in the room.
The budget is the “runway to land” the tax overhaul, Brady told members, repeating a phrase he’s been trumpeting: “No budget, no tax reform.” The Texas Republican said the goal is for the House and Senate to complete the budget process by mid-October, the person in the room said.
After the budget is adopted, the Ways and Means Committee will introduce a chairman’s mark that will reflect input from all House members, and then the committee will mark up that tax bill before it goes to the floor, Brady told members.
The announcement on forthcoming tax details comes as President Donald Trump is meeting with Republican and Democratic lawmakers to discuss overhauling the tax code. He met with a bipartisan group of senators over dinner Tuesday and has a Wednesday afternoon meeting with a bipartisan group of House members.
Despite Trump’s outreach to Democrats, House Republicans are still pushing to have the tax overhaul move through the budget reconciliation process, which would allow it to pass the Senate by a simple majority.
“I would love to have the Democrats supporting and working with us in a constructive way on tax reform, but we’re going to do it no matter what,” Ryan said Wednesday when asked if he expects Democrats to work with Republicans to pass a tax bill.
At a separate event Wednesday, hosted by The Associated Press, Ryan said he expects some Democrats will ultimately vote for a tax overhaul but said it would be unwise for Republicans to not use the budget reconciliation process.
“If we have a process that allows us for avoiding filibusters, shame on us for not using that process,” the Wisconsin Republican said.
A bipartisan effort to enhance election security is among the priorities for Senate Democrats as part of the debate on the annual defense authorization measure.
“The consensus of 17 U.S. Intelligence agencies was that Russia, a foreign adversary, interfered in our elections. Make no mistake: Their success in 2016 will encourage them to try again,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Tuesday. “We have state elections in a couple of months and the 2018 election is a little more than a year away. We must improve our defenses now to ensure we’re prepared.”
The amendment has the backing of a number of national security experts with Republican backgrounds. On Monday, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, former CIA Director James Woolsey, former House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers and retired Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer of the London Center for Policy Research wrote to Senate leaders and the Armed Services Committee leadership to push the effort.
“Although election administration is the province of state and local governments, the federal government has a responsibility to support the states and ‘provide for the common defense,’” the former officials wrote. “We do not expect the states to defend themselves against kinetic attacks by hostile foreign powers, nor should we leave them to defend against foreign cyberattacks on their own.”
Among the possible uses of grant funds to states authorized under the amendment would be cyberdefenses for voting systems and postelection audit systems, as well as paper trail technology.
“On other matters of national security, the federal government provides states and municipalities with grants to fund security personnel and first responders on the front lines of addressing threats. Given the longstanding role of the federal government in elections and the seriousness of emerging risks, the issue of voting security should be no different,” the officials wrote in their letter.
Klobuchar’s involvement comes, in part, from her role as the ranking Democrat on the Rules and Administration Committee, which has significant jurisdiction over election matters.
It was not clear as the Senate broke for lunch Tuesday how many amendments would ultimately be considered to the fiscal 2018 defense bill, despite the efforts of leaders on both sides of the aisle.
Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul has pledged to object to any procedural efforts to truncate debate on the defense policy bill until he gets a vote on an amendment that would roll back the authorizations for use of military force against Iraq and Afghanistan, which date to the early period of the George W. Bush presidency.
If there is no agreement with Paul, the Senate may try to push forward with the defense policy bill without opportunities for any amendments.
But if there are amendments, Klobuchar and Graham will have Schumer’s backing when it comes time to compile a manager’s package of amendments or to get a standalone vote.
“The Graham-Klobuchar amendment would greatly strengthen our defenses, helping prepare states for the inevitable cyberattacks that threaten the integrity of our elections,” Schumer said Tuesday. “We should pass it as part of the NDAA.”