Congress faces a Dec. 8 deadline to fund the federal government, and Republican leaders are usually reliant on Democratic support to pass federal spending proposals that rankle deficit-conscious conservatives.
As the deadline approaches, Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a moderate Republican who usually supports House Speaker Paul Ryan, said Tuesday he won’t support any long-term funding legislation unless there’s a deal to help undocumented young adults who came to the U.S. as young children. If enough Republicans follow Curbelo’s path, Ryan could be forced to find a solution in order to keep the government running.
“House leadership knows it is a major priority for me to get this done before the end of the year,” Curbelo said in an interview. “I know that we have until March [before an Obama-era executive order expires], but there’s no sense in waiting that long.”
Curbelo has faced criticism from Democrats for not signing onto the Dream Act, a legislative solution to the Obama order that protects Dreamers from deportation. Instead, Curbelo is pushing his own bill called the Recognizing America’s Children Act, which he touts as a more conservative version of the Dream Act. Curbelo has said he will support any legislation that helps Dreamers if it comes to the floor for a vote, even if it isn’t his bill.
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President Donald Trump said he will not renew the Obama-era executive order, known as DACA, which will end in March 2018.
Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, an original co-sponsor of the Dream Act, also said she will not back a long-term spending bill without Dreamer protection.
“I agree with my friend Carlos’ position and I won’t be voting for a long-term spending bill unless it includes protections for our Dreamers,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. “We need to help these young men and women who are as American as apple pie. Congress must come through with a legislative fix for those who want to positively contribute to the only country they know.”
Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, part of an informal working group established by Ryan to find a solution for Dreamers, stopped short of endorsing Curbelo’s stance.
“As a member of both the Appropriations Committee and the Speaker’s immigration taskforce, he’s heavily involved in the negotiations on immigration and government funding and recognizes how significant these issues are,” said Diaz-Balart spokeswoman Katrina Bishop. “Because of the sensitivity of these talks, I’d prefer not to speculate.”
Some on the left say it’s either DREAM Act or nothing. I disagree with that. This year, nothing is not an option for me.
Rep. Carlos Curbelo
It is possible that congressional leaders will propose a short-term spending bill to keep the government running through Christmas, which gives Democrats and Republicans more time to hash out a final plan. Curbelo said his position on first helping some 800,000 young immigrants applies specifically to “any appropriations bill that funds the government beyond Dec. 31.”
Curbelo, among 13 Republicans who earlier this month demanded a solution for young immigrants by the end of the year, announced his hardline stance Tuesday morning during a gathering at the University of Miami called by the IMPAC Fund, a bipartisan fund formed by healthcare magnate and former GOP mega-donor Mike Fernandez to aid groups that provide legal services to unauthorized immigrants facing removal from the U.S.
“We need to get this done,” Curbelo said. “How it gets done is of less importance to me.”
Curbelo was speaking as part of a panel with Reps. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, and Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, and moderated by CNN commentator Ana Navarro. Deutch said he agreed with Curbelo’s stance — “I don’t think we should do anything until we take this up” — and Navarro said there were Republican boosters in the audience taking a similar position.
“We’ve got big Republican donors in the room saying not one more cent until we get something done,” she said.
Former Florida governor and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who sat down with journalist and undocumented immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas during the event, called the concept of seamlessly deporting the country’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants “ludicrous.” Bush, who authored a book on immigration, referred to a Trump tweet Tuesday about “illegal immigrants flooding into our country” as “empty rhetoric.”
“It’s great to prey on peoples’ fears and anxiety in politics, but it doesn’t solve problems. I got tire marks on my forehead for resisting this [during the presidential campaign] and I’m here as a private citizen for that reason, probably,” he said. “We can’t be part of the herd.”