It’s hardly a new thing when Donald Trump contradicts his staff, or even himself, on important matters, particularly in the invigorating atmosphere of an interview for Fox & Friends. But this morning he managed to position himself to the right of Stephen Miller on immigration policy, which is very hard to do.
By way of background, Paul Ryan and his House GOP leadership have been trying for weeks to satisfy demands from both vulnerable “moderates” and House Freedom Caucus types for a vote or votes on one or more immigration bills. They managed to head off a discharge petition drive by the “moderates” that might have led to House passage of a Democratic bill. Knowing that the hard-core conservative Goodlatte bill wouldn’t have the votes to win on the House floor, Ryan & Co. began work on a “compromise” bill based on Trump’s “four pillars” approach (Dreamer protections linked to big-time border wall money and an end to the “visa lottery” and “chain migration” elements of the current legal immigration system) with just enough tweaks to keep most House Republicans onboard. In this they were working closely with Trump’s main immigration adviser, Stephen Miller, who as of yesterday was reportedly encouraging the Freedom Caucus and its ilk to climb on the bandwagon while assuring them Trump would support both House bills.
President Donald Trump on Friday morning delivered a potentially fatal blow to a compromise immigration bill under development in the House.
Trump said on “Fox and Friends” that he is not planning to sign the negotiated measure.
“I’m looking at both of them. I certainly wouldn’t sign the more moderate one,” Trump said. “I need a bill that gives this country tremendous border security. I have to have that. We have to get rid of catch-and-release.”
I suppose Trump left some wiggle room for changing his mind, and/or for claiming Miller has secured some new concessions that change everything. But you figure Ryan & Co. are throwing up their hands at this point:
His statement deals a blow to the legislation, which was unveiled Thursday. NBC News reported that House GOP leaders would not try to build support for the bill Friday as planned as they try to figure out Trump’s position.
Now, to be clear, the bill in question was not going to become the law of the land. Even if it got through the House, it was totally, totally DOA in the Senate (Trump’s own “four pillars” proposal got a mere 39 votes, 21 short of the number needed for passage, during the Senate’s futile consideration of alternative immigration bills back in February). Everybody knows the whole process has been an election-year “messaging” exercise so that members can go back home and claim to have done something on immigration.
But at this point, the GOP “message” seems to be about as coherent as a dog barking while it chases it own tail.