Colorado's senators push on with bipartisan immigration deal, despite the 's-show'

Much uncertainty ahead of Friday night shutdown
Posted at 4:38 PM, Jan 16, 2018

DENVER – Colorado’s U.S. senators pushed ahead with their bipartisan immigration deal Tuesday as its uncertainty continued, furor over the president’s vulgar remarks carried into its second week, and as one of their fellow dealmakers said the situation had itself become an “s-show.”

“Our bipartisan #DACA deal is not ‘dead,’” Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., tweeted Tuesday after President Trump and several of his GOP Senate counterparts claimed as much. “Democrats and Republicans negotiated in good faith and came to an agreement that protects Dreamers and increases border security. We’ll keep working to build support for this deal. I urge my colleagues to join me in doing the right thing.”

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., also pressed ahead with the bipartisan deal he, Bennet and four other senators reached and presented to the White House last week.

“I’m continuing to work with my Republican and Democratic colleagues on finding a bipartisan path forward on dreamers and border security,” Gardner, who also chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a statement to Denver7. “The agreement we announced last week included the parameters that President Trump outlined as necessary for any deal and we will continue to talk to our colleagues about what the next steps forward will be in fixing our broken immigration system.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., continued to maintain Tuesday morning that President Donald Trump disparaged African nations during one of last week’s immigration meetings, calling the countries and Haiti “s---hole countries.”

Two Republican senators who were also in the meeting with Durbin – Sens. David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas – spent the weekend first saying they didn’t hear Trump say “s---hole” specifically (some Republicans have claimed he said “s---house” instead), then denying that Trump made any disparaging remarks.

But despite their walkbacks, and a Twitter denial from the president, Durbin maintained his stance Tuesday: “I stand by every word I said about what was said.”

Shortly afterward, Durbin and another member of the bipartisan immigration Senate group, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., questioned Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a committee hearing about what she heard at the meeting. Nielsen didn’t argue with the notion that Trump used “tough language” but said she “did not hear” Trump specifically use the “s---hole” word.

Graham said the entire situation had turned into an “s-show.”

Later Tuesday, Bennet also took issue with the president’s remarks about Durbin, whom Trump called “Dicky” in weekend tweets.

“The President should spend less time disparaging @SenatorDurbin and more time working with the Democrats and Republicans who put forth a #DACA deal that included everything he requested. It’s time for us to pass a deal to protect Dreamers,” Bennet tweeted.

And after this story was first published, Cotton retorted to Durbin: "I saw what Sen. Durbin said, that he stood by every word he said. So let me be clear: I stand by every word I said. The difference is I'm right."

Bennet, Gardner, Durbin, Graham and Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Bob Menendez, D-N.J., reached an agreement on a bipartisan immigration deal they had been working on for months after the Trump administration decided to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in early September.

The deal pairs the Dream Act, which would provide pathways to citizenship for young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children over either 10 or 12 years depending on their DACA status, with several border security measures.

Included in those measures are changes to “chain” migration programs; the elimination of the diversity lottery; $1.1 billion for surveillance, technology and infrastructure improvements along the border; and $1.6 billion for border wall planning and construction.

But Trump has balked at the wall funding included in the deal, saying Durbin “blew DACA.”

Durbin, however, said Tuesday that Trump had asked for $20 billion in appropriations for the next year in order to build 722 miles of the wall.

The senators have hoped that the agreement would go into the next spending resolution deal, which Congress has to reach by the end of Friday in order to avoid another government shutdown. NBC News reported late Tuesday that Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine were on-board with the bipartisan deal.

But the Republicans in the Senate who don’t like the bipartisan deal, and a group of House members from both sides of the aisle, are threatening to push any immigration deal off past this week in order to fund the government. The bipartisan group of senators had hoped their agreement would be reached and included in the spending bill in December as well.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that Congress shouldn’t “hold government funding hostage” in order to get a DACA deal done, and there has been pushback in the House as well, where several DACA- and border-security-related proposals have also been put forth.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., told Denver7 he was optimistic an immigration deal could get done that could pass both chambers on to the president’s desk.

“We have all the parts to get a deal done. The language the president used certainly was not helpful,” he said Tuesday. “But I think we’ll move forward and get something done.”

However, he said there was “a real possibility” that no spending deal is reached because of the impasse over immigration and the children’s health insurance plan, and said he “probably” wouldn’t approve a spending measure that didn’t include DACA protections.

“I’m always optimistic. I think ‘realistic’ is also a proper term here,” Perlmutter said. “We’ve just got to see how a lot of the negotiations proceed over the next three days.”