Graham’s DACA, Military Plan at Odds With Leadership

‘We should take care of the DREAM Act kids now, not wait till March 5’

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, right, and former Massachusetts Sen. Scott P. Brown, now the U.S. ambassador to New Zealand, talk after running into each other by chance in the Russell Building on Jan. 11. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday he believes Congress should address the program that covers immigrants brought illegally to the country as children before it expires later this year.

Speaking at an event in Washington hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, the South Carolina Republican said his party was naive to think it could persuade Democrats to support increased defense spending without finding a solution to prevent the expiration of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

“I believe we should take care of the DREAM Act kids now, not wait till March 5, and we should increase defense spending now,” Graham said, referring to the deadline Trump set when he ended DACA on a six-month delay.

Graham’s comments put him at odds with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said Wednesday that Congress has until March 5 to address DACA.

The House is expected to vote later this week on another short-term extension to maintain government funding beyond Jan. 19, the deadline for the current continuing resolution. Republican leaders said Tuesday a DACA deal is not expected before that vote.

Watch: Clock’s Ticking on Deal to Dodge a Government Shutdown

Graham is part of the so-called gang of six, which is expected to release a bipartisan proposal Wednesday that would provide a 12-year pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, with up to a two-year credit for time in the program, according to a summary obtained by Roll Call. It would also provide $1.5 billion in funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border (a demand of Trump’s), and another $1.1 billion for “non-wall border security.”

Under the legislation, parents of DACA recipients could receive a three-year renewable legal status that comes with work authorization but would receive no pathway to citizenship, according to the summary. The bill would also end the diversity visa and reallocate the annual visas to “priority countries” and recipients of temporary protected status.

That measure, expected to have broad bipartisan support, appears dead on arrival. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas tweeted Wednesday that it will not receive a vote in the House or Senate.

Graham, at the AEI event, also blasted the automatic funding cuts known as sequestration. He said the cuts have damaged the U.S. military more than any foreign adversary.

“Of all the dumb ideas I’ve been witness to, sequestration was the top of the list for me,” he said. “Congress has shot down more planes than any enemy. We’ve sunk more ships. When you look at the damage we’ve done to the military, no enemy can hope to do this.”

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