clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Trump is threatening to shut down the government — and blame Democrats for DACA

Trump says he is considering a veto of the spending bill because it doesn’t fix DACA or fund the border wall.

President Trump holds a working lunch with Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia at the White House
Trump is mad.
Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

President Donald Trump is threatening to shut down the government, tweeting that he is considering vetoing the $1.3 trillion spending bill Congress passed at 1 am Friday because it does not reflect his immigration priorities. A veto would likely cause a government shutdown, as lawmakers have already departed for a two-week recess without passing a short-term spending bill.

Trump tweeted that the bill does not adequately fund the border wall or address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which he blames Democrats for. Without any action in Congress, the fate of DACA, which the Trump administration pledged to end this year, is currently tied up in courts.

Insofar that the government funding package largely ignored Trump’s hardline immigration agenda, the president is right to be angry. As Vox’s Dara Lind explained, the bill actually reins in the country’s immigration enforcement apparatus, doesn’t touch so-called “sanctuary cities,” and doesn’t come close to fully funding Trump’s southern border well.

As for DACA, however, Trump should probably direct his frustration at his own party. For months, congressional Republicans have spent all their energy to try to persuade Democrats to separate government spending and immigration. When most Democrats voted to shut down the government over DACA in January, Republicans took to blaming their Democratic colleagues for holding the government “hostage” over the “unrelated issue of illegal immigration.” This time, Democrats complied with their demands.

As Vox reported last week, Trump’s dissatisfaction with the spending bill over immigration was a long time coming. And this isn’t the first time; in May 2017, he was reportedly talked out of vetoing the 2017 spending bill over a lack of border wall funding. It’s clear lawmakers have no interest in a government shutdown fight this time around — and are tweeting at Trump to back down — but Trump has repeatedly shown a willingness to go that far.

The spending bill ignores Trump’s immigration priorities

Put simply, Republicans didn’t mount a huge fight for Trump’s hardline immigration agenda.

On enforcement, the GOP went into this week wanting more funding for the Department of Homeland Security to increase the number of beds for immigrant detainees and to expand enforcement, with a call to fund 1,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and 500 more Customs and Border Protection officers. The final compromise included funding for only an additional 328 Customs and Border Protection officers, and ICE will actually have to reduce the number of detention beds. Needless to say, this isn’t the kind of deportation force Trump’s administration was envisioning.

The bill also does not defund so-called “sanctuary cities,” something the White House specifically called on Congress to do.

The bill also includes only $1.6 billion worth of border wall funding — much less than the $25 billion the White House asked for. And it comes with a lot of strings attached; most of the funding will have to go toward repairing existing fencing or toward double fencing where barriers already exist. In other words, this isn’t money for Trump’s big, beautiful wall.

Trump’s White House has been frustrated with the spending bill for a while. Trump officials even tried to back-channel conservative ideas with allies in Congress to defund sanctuary cities or push for more border wall spending, but to no avail. Trump reportedly threatened to veto the bill yesterday, but the White House released a statement that the president supported the package. Now it seems his support is wavering yet again.

Democrats dropped their DACA demands for the omnibus — but that’s not why DACA isn’t getting addressed

In January, Senate Democrats, frustrated with Trump’s unwillingness to accept a bipartisan proposal to address the nearly 700,000 immigrants in legal limbo under DACA, orchestrated a government shutdown with the support of some Republicans.

The result was a failed and inconclusive Senate floor debate on the issue. Again, Trump’s hard line on negotiations, including a demand to gut the legal immigration system, tanked any possibility for compromise. Both Democrats and Republicans criticized the White House’s plan. Throughout, Republicans have made every effort to separate DACA and spending.

Then last week, the White House made Democrats another offer on DACA: a two-year temporary extension of DACA to protect the roughly 690,000 undocumented immigrants in the program, in exchange for $25 billion in funding for the southern border wall.

Democrats said no. After a fraught and ultimately fruitless Senate debate on immigration, and with the program tied up in the courts, they have no incentive to accept anything other than a path to citizenship for the 1.8 million unauthorized immigrants currently in the country who came in as children.

While it’s true that Democrats have changed their tune on tying spending to DACA, the reason there hasn’t been a deal on DACA has a lot to do with Trump himself.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.