President Donald Trump is prepared to sign legislation that would grant legal protections to qualified, young undocumented immigrants, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters the morning after she and fellow congressional leaders struck a deal with Trump on budget and debt ceiling matters, Pelosi revealed that a compromise on immigration reform may be closer than anticipated, too. The minority leader, who earlier in the day successfully convinced the president to tweet assurances to young immigrants, said that the president was supportive of the DREAM Act, a bill that the majority of Republican lawmakers have long opposed on grounds that it is a form of amnesty for minors who came to the country illegally.
“We made it very clear in the course of the conversation that the priority was to pass the DREAM Act,” Pelosi said, “that we wanted to do it. Obviously it has to be bipartisan. The president said he supports that. He would sign it.”
Trump has previously been cagey about what type of legislative vehicle he would back after his administration rescinded protections for those so-called DREAMers when it rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program started under President Obama. If Pelosi’s retelling of her conversation with Trump is correct, it gives a tremendous amount of momentum towards the DREAM Act as the main legislative response.
Asked if Pelosi’s account was correct, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders emailed The Daily Beast: “The President is focused on responsible immigration reform and wants to work with both sides to achieve it.” Four Republican senators—Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Cory Gardner (R-CO)—have already come out in support of the DREAM Act, meaning the Senate would be just eight Republican votes away from clearing the 60-vote threshold required for passage.
Despite some GOP lawmakers lending their support to the DREAM Act in the wake of Trump’s DACA decision, the majority of the party is likely to demand additional reforms, including enhanced border security measures. The outlines of that deal, which does not including funding for a physical border wall, have begun to emerge in recent days.
Beyond the legislative implications, Pelosi’s talk with Trump also underscores what appears to be a major shift in the negotiating channels between Congress and the White House. The president has, in recent days, showed a new willingness to cut deals with leading Democrats while leaving his own party’s leaders on the sideline.
White House aides say this is deliberate—that the president has grown frustrated with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The extent to which he is operating off those frustrations remains remarkable.
On Wednesday evening, he expressed his desire to work with “Chuck and Nancy” on immigration reform. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also received a call from Trump and revealed during a floor speech that he too used the opportunity to discuss the DREAM Act.
And on Thursday morning, Trump did the rarest of presidential acts: He turned his Twitter feed over to Pelosi, a Democratic aide told The Daily Beast, heeding her request that he tweet out reassurances to those 800,000 or so DACA recipients that they would not face deportation in the six-month period during which the program is wound down.
“I was telling my colleagues, this is what I asked the president to do, and boom boom boom, the tweet appeared,” Pelosi said.
Lawmakers aren’t quite convinced, though, that Trump’s olive branches to Democrats are legitimate or will be long-lasting.
“Glad to hear that,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told The Daily Beast when told of Trump’s apparent support for the DREAM Act. But he added with a wink and a laugh, “Let’s see what he says tomorrow,” suggesting that the president could very easily change his mind. Democrats were similarly skeptical.
“If it lasts for more than a day or two, I think we should take it seriously. But we’re not even through a complete news cycle and people are doing back-flips,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) told The Daily Beast.
Sanders confirmed that Trump spoke with Schumer and Pelosi—as well as Ryan and McConnell—by phone on Thursday. She also stressed that “the president is committed to working across the aisle and doing what is needed to best serve the American people.”
But she would not confirm that Pelosi asked Trump to tweet about not deporting DACA recipients.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) challenged Trump to show his cards and come out publicly in favor of the DREAM Act and help lobby support for it on Capitol Hill.
“I’m glad that after sticking it to the DREAMers he’s shown some low-level degree of compassion. But it would be helpful if he was up here helping us pass a bill,” Murphy said.
Whether or not Trump turned his social media megaphone over to Pelosi, his seemingly newfound alliance with the minority leader has left Republicans on Capitol Hill reeling. Aides were incensed at the idea that Pelosi now has control—albeit limited—over the president’s messaging.
“If there’s ever a moment to reconsider this strategy of personality politics of keeping Trump happy, now is the time to reassess because whoever controls his Twitter controls Trump,” a conservative House aide told The Daily Beast.