Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) may be stubbornly refusing to come to the bargaining table on immigration — or in any capacity — but she appears to be slowly losing the faith of her Democratic colleagues.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, (D-MD), the second most powerful Democrat in the House next to Pelosi, told Fox News on Tuesday that he believes “physical barriers are part of the solution” to handling illegal immigration, upending previous statements by House Democrats that a border wall itself is “immoral” and counterproductive.
Hoyer’s concern, instead, is that the government is being shut down to force Congress to make a decision on funding only a single aspect of a larger interdiction policy, and that President Donald Trump is “taking hostage the government of the United States” in order to force through a preferred policy.
Hoyer, unlike Pelosi, might have concluded his interview by encouraging a “rational discussion,” something Democrats have been unable to have largely because few have agreed to participate in any negotiations that involve concessions to the Republican president.
Wednesday morning, another major crack appeared in the Democratic facade: a handful of “centrist” Democrats, apparently fed up with their leadership’s approach to ending the government shutdown, issued a missive to Pelosi demanding that the Speaker of the House afford President Trump a vote on the border wall before continuing with her policy of disengagement.
Politico reports that the group “is asking the California Democrat to offer Trump a vote on his border wall sometime in February if he signs a bill reopening the federal government.”
“In the letter,” Politico continues, “the centrist Democrats ask Pelosi to allow the appropriate panels to consider Trump’s wall request after the government is open and ask Pelosi to ‘guarante’ a vote for the funding package on the House floor by the end of February.”
The group is also pushing for Pelosi to consider the White House’s offer of extended protection for those immigrants who fall under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (or DACA) Act, and reforms to the governments “Temporary Protected Status” program — the two issues which the Trump Administration has signaled are open for discussion.
No mention was made about a potential deal on greencards or granting DREAMers the ability to apply for permanent residency as a condition of a federal budget deal.
It’s unlikely, even if offered, Trump would take the deal: it affords him little more than a future vote on the border wall, something the House is guaranteed to vote down (though the numbers may be closer than they appear from public statements). But sheer “openness to an offer” is more than other Democrats have been offering over the past several weeks of the shutdown, and the pressure could provide Pelosi (or Hoyer) with an excuse to put an end to the ongoing stalemate without much future commitment.
If anything, it shows Democrats are working for a way out of the shutdown that Trump appears willing to allow to continue indefinitely.
The true test will come with the State of the Union address. Pelosi was clear Wednesday that Trump will not be allowed to speak in the House chamber next Tuesday, but Trump has indicated that he plans on delivering the speech regardless, likely from an “alternative event” held somewhere outside of Washington, D.C. Although the White House hasn’t specified a location yet, venues in the Rust Belt — and, in particular, in Michigan — and along the United States’ southern border are reportedly under consideration.