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Trading  | January 9, 2018

Following a bipartisan meeting between a group of U.S. lawmakers at the White House today, Sarah Sanders announced that Republicans and Democrats agreed to do something they haven’t done in a very long time: work together. 

As Sanders noted at the daily White House press briefing, lawmakers agreed to work toward an immigration bill that focuses on four areas: border security, so-called chain migration, the visa lottery system and the plight of ‘Dreamer’ immigrants.  The agreement was apparently reached during a closed-door portion of the meeting held earlier today.

Here is Sanders summarizing the key parameters of an immigration bill that could ultimately avoid a government shutdown:

In efforts to set a conciliatory tone, Trump basically implied that he would pass any immigration bill that was negotiated on a bipartisan basis and sent to the White House for his approval.  As the USA Today notes, Trump’s approach to immigration reform would apparently separate the issue into two segments with the first involving a trade that would give democrats the DACA programs while granting the White House funding for the border wall.

President Trump promised Tuesday to sign what he called a “bill of love” to extend protections to 800,000 immigrants who entered the United States illegally as children — if Congress can work out the details.

“You folks are going to have to come up with a solution. And if you do, I will sign that solution,” Trump told 25 lawmakers in a remarkable, freewheeling negotiation at the White House with reporters in the room.

But funding for a border wall remains a sticking point, as Trump insisted that border security remain a part of any deal to replace the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that temporarily protected immigrants who came to the United States as children.

“A clean DACA bill to me is to take care of the 800,000 people,” he said. “We take care of that, and we also take care of security. And then we can go to comprehensive (immigration reform) later on.”

“We want to have a DACA compromise. We want to make sure the DACA problem is solved,” Ryan told reporters. But, he added, “we want to make sure that we have the right kind of interior and border enforcement so that we don’t have another DACA problem down the road.”

Of course, while Lindsey Graham celebrated his new autonomy, Trump’s base will undoubtedly be less enthusiastic about any bill that grants amnesty to ‘DREAMERs.’

With Republicans holding just 51 out of 100 Senate seats, at least nine Democratic votes are needed to push a deal through the Senate, and many Republicans say Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has tremendous leverage. “Senator Schumer basically has a veto card” on government spending and immigration, said Representative Chris Collins, a New York Republican and close Trump ally.

Meanwhile, in one of the more surreal moments from Trump’s meeting, he openly lobbied for a return of “earmarks” which would allow legislators to effectively ‘buy off’ votes from individual Senators to get a funding bill passed.  Of course, as the Wall Street Journal notes, earmarks were banned by Republicans in 2010 after being deemed emblematic of corruption and profligacy in Washington.

“Maybe all of you should start thinking about going back to a form of earmarks,” Mr. Trump said at a meeting with Republican and Democratic lawmakers. “Maybe we should think about it. We have to put better controls because it got out of hand, but maybe it brings people together.”

The move carries political risks.  In November 2016, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) halted a push among House Republicans to bring back a limited form of earmarks. A proposal from Rep. Tom Rooney (R., Fla.) at the time would have let lawmakers request funding only for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation projects. Coming on the heels of Mr. Trump’s successful presidential campaign to “drain the swamp,” the effort sparked outrage from conservative groups.

Not surprisingly, the irony of Trump openly endorsing the use of earmarks was quickly seized upon by Democrats…

Of course, in the end, today’s meeting could be summarized as yet another useless meeting between politicians where nothing was actually decided and the only takeaway was that there should be more meetings.

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