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President Donald Trump rejected a bipartisan immigration plan on Monday — even before it was formally presented by Sens. John McCain and Chris Coons — as lawmakers struggled to resolve an impasse over how to change the system.
McCain, R-Ariz., and Coons, D-Del., are set to introduce legislation that would protect hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants. It calls for boosting border security by 2020 but does not include explicit funding for Trump's proposed border wall or some of the restrictions on legal immigration that the president wants.
In a tweet, Trump did not mention the senators by name, but called a bill that does not include "STRONG" border security and a wall "a total waste of time." He claimed that Democrats "seem not to care" about extending legal status for the young immigrants ahead of a "rapidly approaching" March 5 deadline when the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is set to start phasing out.
Trump ended the DACA program in September but gave lawmakers six months to change it. Democrats and many Republicans want to enshrine legal status for the immigrants protected by it, but they have struggled to reach a deal on other changes sought by the GOP.
The president has pushed for funding his proposed southern-border barrier, limits on extended family migration and an end to the visa "lottery" system. Democrats appear unwilling to accept major restrictions on legal immigration.
Trump has proven difficult to pin down on immigration, and senators on both sides of the aisle have been frustrated with the process of striking a deal with him. Last month, only days after he told bipartisan lawmakers he would sign a compromise that can pass Congress, he retrenched and pushed for concessions that appear unacceptable to Democrats and even some Republicans.
Two days after he offered to support what bipartisan lawmakers proposed, he rejected a plan crafted by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Graham has expressed frustration with the change Trump showed over those two days, blaming the president's advisors like policy aide Stephen Miller.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has said talks with Trump are like "negotiating with Jell-O."
The inability to reach an immigration agreement contributed to the brief government shutdown last month.
Congress faces another deadline this week. If it cannot pass a spending bill by Thursday, the government will shut down again.
In a statement Monday, McCain said his immigration proposal would help lawmakers to move closer to passing a long-term budget and resolving the disagreement over spending caps. He said the bill "would address the most urgent priorities of protecting Dreamers, strengthening border security, alleviating the backlog in immigration courts, and addressing the root causes of illegal immigration."
Trump complicated matters in the meeting during which he rejected the Durbin-Graham proposal. Durbin says Trump questioned the need for immigrants from "s---hole" African countries. Graham did not deny that Trump made those remarks, but two Republican Trump allies in the Senate — Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia — said they did not recall the president making the comment.