Chuck Schumer is taking it from all sides these days. After absorbing repeated body blows from the GOP for causing the “Schumer Shutdown,” the embattled Senate Minority Leader is now taking serious incoming from his own left-wing base for the “Schumer Sellout,” after capitulating on DACA and ending the government mini-shutdown after three days.
Indeed, Schumer finds himself between a rock and a hard place. President Trump and the GOP will not back down from their price for DACA: enhanced border security, including the vaunted wall, and an end – or at least significant reforms – to the diversity visa lottery and chain migration. But at the same time, the Democrat base, which views DACA as a defining issue, demands with equal fury not only the legalization of the 800,000 illegals brought to the US as children, but that nothing – zero – be given to the despicable Trump in return.
Of course, the big difference is that Republicans – with control of the White House and both houses of Congress – have the power to enforce their demands. The Democrat leftists do not.
Indeed, nobody ever accused the hard left of political realism. But after being empowered for eight years under Barack Obama, most leftists believe they have far more power than they actually do in the age of Trump – establishment/deep state/media bias notwithstanding. And the the Dems’ base has been encouraged by opposition to the Schumer capitulation from each of their prospective 2020 presidential candidates currently residing in the Senate – Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) opposed the deal.
Schumer may well have spoiled Americans’ general embrace of DACA by attaching the issue to keeping the government open. Before the shutdown, polls indicated high levels of support for legalizing these hundreds of thousands of illegals, but Schumer’s ill-fated demand to include their legalization as a condition for the government continuing to function has confused and angered many of those who viewed these “dreamers” sympathetically. Polls were indicating an erosion of public support for Schumer’s position on the shutdown, forcing him to cave for fear of losing the advantage that Democrats believe they have going into this year’s midterm elections. Nevertheless, the Democrats’ advantage in generic polls has now slipped from double- to single digits, and Trump’s approval has risen to its highest level since he took office – 45%, according to the two latest polls.
The question now is what options are truly open to Schumer. It is clear that a “clean” DACA bill which legalizes these illegals with no conditions attached is not going to be one of them. Trump and congressional Republicans will never agree to that, given the considerable leverage they wield due to Schumer’s failure to remove DACA from the table in the shutdown debate. The cost of DACA for Democrats is going to be enhanced border security, including a southern border wall, at an absolute minimum, and likely fixes to the visa lottery and chain migration as well.
None of the options before Sen. Schumer are attractive. He could bow to reality, agree to a deal on all the immigration issues and infuriate his base. He could repeat his DACA demand when the current 17-day budget agreement expires, resulting in another shutdown which would likely lead to the same repudiation he experienced in the last shutdown debate. Or he could agree on another temporary budget measure but refuse any immigration deal beyond DACA, satisfying no one.
Making things worse for Schumer, Trump and the Republicans are feeling their oats, with the wind at their backs following victories on tax reform and the shutdown, and a steady stream of excellent news on the economy, jobs, and the stock market. The GOP is in no mood to grant concessions when they see before them, finally, a clear opportunity to settle the immigration issue which has been vexing them for the entire 21st century. A second-term effort by George W. Bush to pass “comprehensive” immigration reform more than a decade ago failed, and the issue has haunted them ever since.
But now, much to the chagrin of Sen. Schumer, they can see the clear outlines of a satisfactory deal – and they have the leverage to make it happen.