Senate Democrats abandoned their hopes of attaching an immigration bill to legislation to fund the federal government , but Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., warns a fierce fight over immigration policy is still coming that conservatives must win.
Brat also expounded upon why he and dozens of other House Republicans want to make public a FISA memo on FBI and Justice Department conduct in recent years.
However, the big story on Capitol Hill Monday was Senate Democrats agreeing to a GOP plan to fund the federal government through February 8 in exchange for a promise to start a debate on legislation to grant legal status and possibly a path to citizenship for people brought to the United States illegally when they were children.
Until Monday, Democrats has insisted upon immigration being tied to the funding, but Brat says reality smacked the minority party in the face since the government partially shuttered operations at midnight Saturday morning.
“I think they heard plenty of feedback coming back that said, ‘What are you guys doing?'” said Brat, noting the position of Democrats was tantamount to withholding pay for our military and funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program all for the sake of helping people in the U.S. illegally.
Brat says the untenable position of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and other Democrats even overwhelmed efforts in the media to paint Republicans as responsible for the shutdown since they control the White House and both chamber in Congress.
“It’s amazing that you have to have a debate on who shut the government down. You’ve got 95 percent in the House and the Senate on the Democrat side voting to shut it down. If you forego rationality and language in the public square, that’s a hint where your society is,” lamented Brat.
In addition to wanting legislation to provide legal status for 800,000 people enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, Brat says Democrats wanted the provision with no conditions.
“They got out way over their skis. They’re saying they want a DACA debate. We’re going to have a DACA debate. What they really mean is they want a clean, Democrat DACA bill and no border security,” said Brat.
It’s not just Democrats pushing for a generous DACA bill. The so-called Gang of Six includes Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Cory Gardner, R-Colo.
The legislation they crafted with Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., not only grants permanent legal status to the roughly 800,000 DACA enrollees but to all people here illegally who are eligible for DACA but never signed up for it. All of them would also be allowed to pursue a “pathway to citizenship.”
In addition, the parents of all of those people would also get legal status despite being responsible for the law-breaking to enter the U.S. in the first place. All told, some 10 million people could gain legal status as a result of the Gang of Six bill.
The offsets in the legislation amount to very little. The Gang of Six bill would tweak but not fundamentally change current chain migration and visa lottery policies and only allocate money to maintain existing border fencing.
Brat says that approach is reckless, and he is particularly frustrated about the lack of action on chain migration, which allows citizens to sponsor immediate and extended family members to come to the U.S. legally.
“You have all of the leading conspirators on the other side – Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and Dick Durbin – all coming out against chain migration as early as five years ago. They’ve totally switched sides,” said Brat.
Brat says the progression of legalizing DACA recipients and their extended families results in an economic nightmare.
“If you allow the DACA piece to go through that will have a lot of unintended consequences like chain migration and extended families. That will lead to millions more, while we’re trying to get 20 million American citizens that have left the workforce back in the workforce,” said Brat.
“We’ve got to get all of our own citizens back in the labor force and then you see if you have a labor shortage. The other key piece is we’re trying to move towards a rational skills and merit-based immigration system instead of the familial piece that has gotten us in this boat in the first place,” said Brat.
Brat also says following the Gang of Six prescription will result in another huge bill to pay for a nation already more than $20 trillion in debt.
“Who’s gonna pay the bill? That’s where you get the issue: health care, if you’ve got two kids in public schools that’s $26,000 a year. Every person in the country with a certain status is eligible for $40,000 of federal benefits a year. That’s one of the reasons we’ve got a welfare crisis right now,” said Brat.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to begin a DACA debate before government funding runs out again on Feb. 8. Given the easy passage of the Gang of Eight bill in the Senate in 2013, passage of the Gang of Six bill seems likely.
That would put immense pressure on the House and President Trump to go along, but Brat says 2013-2014 proves stopping a bad bill is not impossible.
Brat should know. His upset primary win over the sitting House majority leader in June 2014 was a major factor in derailing the Gang of Eight plan.
“It did blow up in the House. I think there was an election that had something to do with it in Virginia’s seventh district. I’ve heard rumors,” cracked Brat.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., is sponsoring a far different immigration reform plan. He would grant legal status to DACA recipents with no pathway to citizenship. He would also limit chain migration to spouses and children and ditch the visa lottery altogether. His bill would authorize border wall construction but fails to appropriate money for it.
Brat says commitment to Goodlatte’s approach and a President Trump veto as a backstop gives amnesty opponents plenty of firepower.
“We need to start off strong with the Goodlatte bill. Then you could have a debate between the Goodlatte bill and the Senate. Then the president is the ultimate veto threat, so a lot of it is going to depend on where President Trump comes down on this,” said Brat.
Brat is also one of several dozen House Republicans who have seen the FISA memo from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that GOP members describe as alarming “alarming” to “stunning” to sure to land people in prison. While specifics are still under wraps, the four-page memo focuses on alleged FISA abuses by the FBI and Justice Department during the 2016 campaign.
The top Democrat on the intelligence panel, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., says the memo should not be released because the American people will not be able to understand it without the supporting documentation.
Brat says the memo should be made public because the people have the right to make up their own minds about what’s in it and what the fallout should be.
“We’re a democratic republic. The people are our boss. We’re not the boss. Maybe he got his eighth grade civics upside down but I still believe in the good old school stuff where the people are my boss and I’m going to let them see the information, let them make up their mind, and then I’m going to represent them. That’s my job,” said Brat.
Despite the strong adjectives used by other Republicans, Brat says he is not worried about the memo being over-hyped.
“There’s something just very, very wrong at the highest levels of our Justice Department,” said Brat. “I’m not too worried about the over-hype on this. You cannot over-hype any corruption at all in the highest levels of government.”