White House Negotiating with Hill Democrats about Border Crisis

by Joel Gehrke

White House officials are meeting with Hill Democrats in an attempt to figure out if there are policy changes that the party could support in order to strike a deal with congressional Republicans that would secure the administration with additional funding for the border crisis.

“I think it’s important and I think it’s worth while, because I think the administration doesn’t want to have anything blow up in its face,” Representative John Conyers (D., Mich.,) told National Review Online Friday when asked about the meetings. “There would be a reaction if some of us were not in on it.” 

Obama signaled support in early July for changing a 2008 human trafficking law — which Republicans in both chambers of Congress have demanded as a condition of providing addition funding — but his team backed away from that in the face of opposition from immigration activists and lawmakers. The White House is still trying to figure out what policy changes they could get congressional Democrats to approve in order to achieve some compromise with Republicans.

As of now, the border crisis marks a rare moment of disunity between congressional Democrats and President Obama.

 “I wasn’t at this meeting, but I understand for example that they’ve been having smaller meetings with different groups of lawmakers — perhaps Democrats and Republicans, I don’t know, but the group I heard about was a Democratic group — so I take that as trying to figure out where everybody is, what’s going on,” a Democratic lawmaker told NRO.

Conyers said that he was willing to make policy changes in order to get the supplemental funding, but other Democrats were more firmly opposed to such a deal.

“I’m not for any changes to the 2008 law,” Representative Keith Ellison (D., Minn.) said, telling NRO that the White House hasn’t approached him about moving from that position. “We just passed an anti-trafficking bill just now, so we’re going to go undermine another one? So, it’s like we have compassion for anti-trafficking victims unless they’re from Central America?”

The White House has not presented a proposal to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, as of yet.

“CHC and the majority of the progressive caucus would have to reverse their position, and I don’t think it’s that easy,” Representative Raúl Grijalva (D., Ariz.) told NRO. “We’ve taken a pretty strong line in the sand that if you dismantle [the 2008 human trafficking law] or you make it impotent or you get rid of the law, then there is not much reason to vote for the supplemental. So, it’s up to the White House to outline to all of us what they see as policy changes that we would find tolerable. I don’t know what they would be.”