President Donald Trump appeared to give up hope Friday that the Republican-controlled Congress could succeed in passing an immigration bill this year, urging lawmakers in a Twitter post to stop “wasting their time.”
His advice is likely to kill current efforts to pass a measure that had little chance of succeeding.
The president said a vote on immigration legislation should be postponed until after the midterm elections in November, when he expects Republicans to pick up more seats and create a stronger majority — a prediction that is far from guaranteed.
“Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November,” Trump wrote. “Dems are just playing games, have no intention of doing anything to solves this decades old problem. We can pass great legislation after the Red Wave!”
Trump’s change of course comes as his administration struggles to reunite thousands of migrant parents and their children who have been separated at the border and dispatched to detention facilities around the country.
But House Republicans are moving forward as planned and pushing ahead with efforts to pass immigration legislation, said Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the majority whip.
“I think the president’s expressing his frustration that Democrats don’t want to solve the problem while we do, and we’re going to keep working to try to get it done,“ Scalise said.
He acknowledged that passing the bill would be an “uphill fight.”
For the past week, Trump has demanded changes in the nation’s immigration laws and encouraged Congress to act with urgency. Relenting to pressure from lawmakers of both parties, as well as his wife and daughter, Ivanka, Trump signed an executive order Wednesday to stop separating families.
On Thursday, the Pentagon announced military bases were being prepared to shelter as many as 20,000 migrant children. Additionally, the House voted against a hard-line immigration measure and delayed a vote on a more moderate proposal, punting a decision on the bill to next week to give lawmakers more time to pick up support.
The proposal, negotiated by moderate and conservative Republicans, would provide a citizenship path for young unauthorized immigrants and keep migrant families together when they are stopped at the border. But without Trump’s backing, the bill is essentially guaranteed to fail.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., had no immediate comment Friday about the president’s change of course.
The Trump administration started enforcing a “zero tolerance” policy last month, which has been met with outrage for separating children — in many cases toddlers and infants — from their families. He has falsely blamed Democrats for forcing them to enforce the policy.
In abandoning the compromise bill and delaying a vote until after the November elections, Trump risks losing $23 billion in funding for border security included in the proposal, some of which would go toward building the wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.
Also, Trump is taking a risk by asking Republicans to push off a vote until after the election. If Democrats take control of the House, they are unlikely to approve that wall funding.
Three hours after Trump told Republican lawmakers to give up on the bill, he tweeted about the critical need for strong border security.
“We must maintain a Strong Southern Border. We cannot allow our Country to be overrun by illegal immigrants as the Democrats tell their phony stories of sadness and grief, hoping it will help them in the elections,” Trump wrote. “Obama and others had the same pictures, and did nothing about it!”
Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., the second highest ranking Democrat in the House, said the president has rejected immigration proposals even as he’s shamed lawmakers to do their jobs.
On Twitter, Hoyer wrote: “Quick refresher: 1. You created this #DACA crisis & asked Congress to “do your job” & pass a bill. 2. Democrats have offered multiple bipartisan proposals to #ProtectDREAMers. 3. You’ve rejected every single one. You can’t take yes for an answer.”