Democrats are unlikely to support a stopgap spending bill this week without protections for young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said Tuesday.
“I think it needs to be in the CR,” Hoyer said of protections for Dreamers.
The Maryland Democrat said he’s “hopeful” Congress can pass those protections, needed because of President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program effective in March, within the next 72 hours.
Hoyer also said he’s hopeful an agreement on increasing the sequestration spending caps for defense and nondefense spending can be reached this week and said that too should be included in a continuing resolution to extend government funding. He also mentioned disaster aid funding as a Democratic priority.
If those issues are not addressed, Democrats are expected to oppose the CR but Hoyer noted that decision has not been made yet given ongoing negotiations.
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“While there are many reasons why we would be opposed to kicking the can down the road, we haven’t made that decision yet,” Hoyer said.
Democrats believe CRs are bad policy, Hoyer said, citing many Republicans who also share that view. However, he also questioned whether GOP leaders want to reach a broader spending deal.
“We think they may just want to fund government by CRs,” the Democratic whip said. “The problem is their guys don’t want to do that.”
Hoyer acknowledged that Democrats “don’t have many tools available” to push their priorities on spending and immigration, which is why they’re leveraging the CR since their votes will be needed, at least in the Senate.
If Republicans fail to put up the needed votes for a CR and all Democrats vote against it, Hoyer said they’d be able to argue “pretty persuasively” that they’re not to blame for a shutdown.
“We don’t have the majority; they have the majority,” he said.
Republicans are expected to include a six-year reauthorization of the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program in the CR as a sweetener for Democrats.
While that “may” complicate Democrats’ position in opposing a stopgap absent deals on DACA and spending caps, Hoyer said, “Democrats are not going to be held hostage by bad policies or inaction.”
Complicating the negotiations on DACA are reports that Trump used the term “shithole” to describe Haiti and African countries during a White House meeting last week on a Senate proposal that would extend certain protections to immigrants from those areas. Trump opposes the Senate proposal.
Hoyer said Trump’s comments “were certainly racist” and when pushed to say whether he believes the president himself is a racist, the Maryland Democrat confirmed as much.
“What he does is racist. If what you do is racist, you certainly qualify for being a racist,” he said.
Regarding the bipartisan Senate immigration proposal, Hoyer said he has not been fully apprised of the agreement but indicated he could not support any measure that would make changes to extended family visas or the diversity visa lottery program.
“I am not for, at this point in time, dealing with family unification or diversity,” Hoyer said, noting concerns within the Democratic caucus about the racial undertones related to altering those policies. He said those issues should be tabled for later discussion as part of a comprehensive immigration overhaul.