Trump Supreme Court pick would slash odds of surprise liberal victories

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Amid a flurry of major rulings early this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court in an under-the-radar case handed a significant win to Native Americans by finding for the first time that almost half of Oklahoma is tribal land.

The ruling was a 5-4 decision in which conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the four liberal justices, one of a handful of such surprise victories by the liberal wing of the court in recent terms.

The death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her possible replacement by a conservative appointed by President Donald Trump imperil such unlikely liberal wins in coming years.

The 5-4 conservative majority before Ginsburg’s death meant that the liberals on certain key issues only needed one conservative colleague siding with them.

Now, if Trump replaces her, they would need two, with likely implications for headline-grabbing issues on which liberals have prevailed in recent years, including abortion and gay rights, as well as lesser-known cases.

“The stars would have to line up,” said John Elwood, a Supreme Court lawyer.

The last two Supreme Court terms have defied expectations with a series of 5-4 rulings in which Chief Justice John Roberts joined the liberals in ruling against Trump’s bid to add a citizenship question to the U.S. census, blocking the president’s effort to rescind protections for young immigrants known as “Dreamers” and striking down a Louisiana abortion restriction.

But there are also several lesser-noticed 5-4 rulings that would have been unlikely with a 6-3 conservative majority.

The Oklahoma ruling was one. It is one of three 5-4 cases on Native American issues in which Gorsuch, who was appointed by Trump, joined the four liberals in the majority.

Similarly, Gorsuch two years ago was the fifth vote for the liberal wing of the court in striking down part of an immigration law that made it easier to deport people convicted of certain criminal offenses. He also cast the deciding vote that year in two 5-4 criminal cases in favor of defendants.

Last year, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, another conservative appointed by Trump, joined the four liberals in a 5-4 ruling that gave the greenlight to an antitrust lawsuit accusing Apple Inc of forcing consumers to overpay for iPhone software applications.

In an important case on evolving privacy rights in the age of the smartphone, Roberts and the four liberals prevailed in another 5-4 case in 2018 as the court imposed limits on the ability of police to obtain cellphone data pinpointing the past location of criminal suspects.

Whether the three liberals will be able to cobble together a majority in similar cases in future depends in large part on the identity of Trump’s nominee.

UNPREDICTABLE VOTES

Trump has said he intends to announce his nomination on Saturday, with conservative appeals court judges Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa considered the frontrunners to be named to succeed Ginsburg, who died last Friday at age 87. The Republican-controlled Senate, which has to vote on whether to approve or reject the nomination, is poised to act even ahead of Nov. 3, when Trump is seeking re-election.

Carolyn Shapiro, a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, said that even before Ginsburg’s death, the 5-4 cases in which liberals prevailed were contingent on the individual legal reasoning of the conservative who joined them. It might be possible to win certain cases with a 6-3 majority, she added, but it will be harder.

“Those occasions are likely to be fairly idiosyncratic and mostly unpredictable,” Shapiro said.

One area where liberal votes may still be key is on LGBT rights. In June, the court to the dismay of conservatives ruled 6-3 that federal law that outlaws sex discrimination in the workplace applies to gay, lesbian and transgender people.

In that case, both Roberts and Gorsuch were in the majority with the liberals, so even with Ginsburg’s absence, five of the votes in favor of LGBT workers remain on the court. Other cases on the definition of sex discrimination under other federal laws are likely to reach the court soon.

Shannon Minter, a lawyer with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said he is “hopeful” that the majority remains intact but noted that every time there is a change in personnel on the court it can change the internal dynamic in unpredictable ways.

As such, he added, “Ginsburg’s absence is a significant factor.”

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Mary Milliken and Alistair Bell)

Trump: will submit ‘enhanced papers’ on U.S. Supreme Court immigration decision

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Friday said his administration will make a filing on “Dreamer” immigrants who are in the United States illegally but entered as children, without providing details, to address the Supreme Court’s ruling he broke federal procedure law in ending a program shielding them from deportation.

“The Supreme Court asked us to resubmit on DACA, nothing was lost or won. They ‘punted’, much like in a football game (where hopefully they would stand for our great American Flag). We will be submitting enhanced papers shortly in order to properly fulfil[l] the Supreme Court’s ruling & request of yesterday,” Trump wrote on Twitter, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.

Trump did not explain what he meant by “enhanced papers.” The highest court in the country left the door open for Trump to attempt again to rescind the program, ruling only that the administration had not met a procedural requirement and its actions were “arbitrary and capricious” under a federal law called the Administrative Procedure Act.

Ken Cuccinelli, the Department of Homeland Security acting deputy secretary, on Friday said the department would “move as quickly as possible” to present Trump with various executive options he could take.

“That still leaves open the appropriate solution, which the Supreme Court mentioned, and that is that Congress step up to the plate,” he told Fox News in an interview shortly before Trump’s tweet.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert and Susan Heavey, Editing by Franklin Paul and Jonathan Oatis)

U.S. Supreme Court blocks Trump bid to end ‘Dreamers’ immigrant program

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday dealt President Donald Trump a major setback on his hardline immigration policies, blocking his bid to end a program that protects from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants – often called “Dreamers” – who entered the United States illegally as children.

The justices on a 5-4 vote upheld lower court rulings that found that Trump’s 2017 move to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, created in 2012 by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, was unlawful.

Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four liberals in finding that the administration’s actions were “arbitrary and capricious” under a federal law called the Administrative Procedure Act.

The ruling means that the roughly 649,000 immigrants, mostly young Hispanic adults born in Mexico and other Latin American countries, currently enrolled in DACA will remain protected from deportation and eligible to obtain renewable two-year work permits.

The ruling does not prevent Trump from trying again to end the program. But his administration is unlikely to be able to end DACA before the Nov. 3 election in which Trump is seeking a second four-year term in office.

“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies. We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action,” Roberts wrote.

The ruling marks the second time this week that Roberts has ruled against Trump in a major case following Monday’s decision finding that gay and transgender workers are protected under federal employment law. [L1N2DS0VW]

“These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives,” Trump wrote on Twitter after the DACA ruling.

The court’s four other conservatives including two Trump appointees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, dissented.

“Today’s decision must be recognized for what it is: an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in dissent.

Thomas, whose dissent was joined by Gorsuch and Justice Samuel Alito, said DACA itself was “substantively unlawful.”

Trump’s administration has argued that Obama exceeded his constitutional powers when he created DACA by executive action, bypassing Congress.

A collection of states including California and New York, people currently enrolled in DACA and civil rights groups all filed suit to block Trump’s plan to end the program. Lower courts in California, New York and the District of Columbia ruled against Trump and left DACA in place, finding that his move to revoke the program violated the Administrative Procedure Act.

Only one justice, liberal Sonia Sotamayor, embraced arguments made by plaintiffs that the policy may have been motivated by discriminatory bias against immigrants. Sotamayor is the court’s first Hispanic justice.

Trump has made his crackdown on legal and illegal immigration, including pursuing construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, a central part of his presidency and his 2020 re-election campaign.

‘I FEEL CONTENT’

DACA recipients and their supporters in Congress including House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and in the business community welcomed the ruling and called for permanent protections to be enacted.

“I feel content. I think the decision was what we deserved, but at the same time I am also thinking we still have to defend the program,” said Melody Klingenfuss, a 26-year-old DACA recipient and organizer with the California Dream Network.

Roberts a year ago also cast the decisive vote in a Supreme Court loss for the Republican president when the justices blocked Trump’s administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census that critics said was an effort to dissuade immigrants from taking part in the decennial population count. That case raised similar questions about whether Trump’s administration followed lawful procedures in a reaching policy decision.

Immigrants had to meet certain conditions to qualify for DACA enrollment such as not being convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor and being enrolled in high school or having a high school diploma or equivalent.

Government figures show that upwards of 95 percent of current enrollees were born in Latin America, including 80 percent from Mexico, followed by El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Nearly half live in California and Texas. The average age of DACA enrollees is 26.

Obama created the DACA program after Congress failed to pass bipartisan legislation that would have overhauled U.S. immigration policy and offered protections for the immigrants known as “Dreamers,” a moniker derived from the name of an immigration bill.

The young immigrants for whom the program was devised, Obama said, were raised and educated in the United States, grew up as Americans and often know little about their countries of origin. After Thursday’s ruling, Obama wrote on Twitter, “We may look different and come from everywhere, but what makes us American are our shared ideals.”

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Ted Hesson, Kristina Cooke Andrew Chung and Jan Wolfe; Editing by Will Dunham)

What is at stake as the Supreme Court weighs the future of immigrant ‘Dreamers’

By Ted Hesson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide the legality of President Donald Trump’s decision to end a program offering work permits and deportation relief to immigrant “Dreamers” who came to the United States illegally as children.

Trump, a Republican, moved in 2017 to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. His administration argued the initiative of his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama was unconstitutional and would not withstand legal challenges.

Several federal courts blocked Trump’s attempt to terminate the DACA program. The case went to the Supreme Court, which heard arguments in November.

The decision will be one of the most-watched of Trump’s presidency. Here is what you need to know about it.

WHAT IS THE DACA PROGRAM?

Obama announced DACA in 2012 after more than a decade of failed efforts to pass legislation in the U.S. Congress that would have provided a path to citizenship for so-called Dreamers.

The program offered unauthorized immigrants who came to the United States before age 16 the chance to obtain a work permit and a reprieve from imminent deportation.

Applicants were required to pass a criminal background check to ensure they had not been convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor. They needed to have completed high school, still be in school or have served in the U.S. military.

The Obama administration said the program would allow immigration officers to focus on higher-priority offenders. Critics called it an abuse of executive power.

WHO IS ENROLLED IN DACA?

About 649,000 people are enrolled, according to the most recent government data. Nine of 10 are immigrants born in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. More than half live in California, Texas, Illinois, New York and Florida.

The average age of DACA enrollees is 26, slightly more women than men, according to the latest statistics.

A 2017 analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by the Migration Policy Institute found the top occupations for immigrants in the program were food preparation and serving, sales, office and administrative support, and construction.

WHERE DO EMPLOYERS STAND?

Major U.S. companies support DACA and have hired work-eligible beneficiaries.

In an October brief in the Supreme Court case, 125 companies – including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Starbucks – said ending the program would “inflict serious harm” on employers, workers and the U.S. economy. They were joined by 18 major business associations.

DACA enrollees hold thousands of jobs in the medical field, a point backers have raised during the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

Plaintiffs defending the program noted in a Supreme Court brief this month that 27,000 DACA recipients are healthcare workers including nurses, pharmacists and home care aides. Nearly 200 are medical students, residents and physicians, the brief said.

HOW WILL THE SUPREME COURT RULE?

The Supreme Court is expected to rule by the end of June, but could act sooner.

With five conservative justices and four liberals, the court appeared split along ideological lines during oral arguments in November. The conservative majority signaled support for Trump’s termination of the program while liberals said the move would destroy lives of DACA beneficiaries. [L2N27SOC7]

WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF TRUMP IS ALLOWED TO END DACA?

The Trump administration has not said how it will proceed if the Supreme Court allows it to terminate the program.

However, a top U.S. immigration official told Reuters in December that DACA recipients ordered removed by an immigration judge would be subject to deportation. [L4N28L3OZ]

(Reporting by Ted Hesson, editing by Ross Colvin and David Gregorio)

Conservative Supreme Court justices lean toward Trump on ending immigrant program

Conservative Supreme Court justices lean toward Trump on ending immigrant program
By Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices on Tuesday appeared sympathetic to President Donald Trump’s effort to rescind a program that protects from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants who entered the United States illegally as children – dubbed “Dreamers” – part of his tough immigration policies.

Several of the five conservative justices appeared skeptical that courts can even review the Republican president’s 2017 plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which had been implemented in 2012 by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama. Even if the court finds that it can be reviewed, conservative justices indicated they think Trump’s administration gave a reasonable explanation for its decision.

Liberal justices emphasized the large number of individuals, businesses and others that have relied on the program.

The court’s 5-4 conservative majority includes two justices – Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh – appointed by Trump.

The justices heard the administration’s appeals of lower court rulings in California, New York and the District of Columbia that blocked Trump’s move as unlawful and left DACA in place.

Trump’s administration has argued that Obama exceeded his constitutional powers when he created DACA by executive action, bypassing Congress. Trump has made his hardline immigration policies – cracking down on legal and illegal immigration and pursuing construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border – a centerpiece of his presidency and 2020 re-election campaign.

Kavanaugh said there is no reason to think that the administration’s consideration of the impact its decision would have on individuals, when weighed against its contention that the DACA program was unlawful from the beginning, was anything other than a “considered decision.”

Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts – who could be the pivotal vote in deciding the case – questioned whether there was much more that needed to be added to the administration’s rationale even if the court were to rule in favor of the challengers and send the issue back for further review.

The challengers who sued to stop Trump’s action included a collection of states such as California and New York, people currently protected by the program and civil rights groups.

Were the court to rule in favor of the challengers it would merely prolong the uncertainty for “Dreamers,” Gorsuch said.

“What good would another five years of litigation … serve?” Gorsuch asked.

DACA currently shields about 660,000 immigrants – mostly Hispanic young adults – from deportation and provides them work permits, though not a path to citizenship.

Much of the administration’s reasoning in trying to end DACA was based on then-Attorney General Jeff Session’s conclusion in 2017 that the program was unlawful.

Gorsuch pressed an attorney representing supporters of DACA about the limits on courts to second guess decisions by federal agencies that are within their discretion to make. Gorsuch also seemed skeptical that the administration had not adequately addressed its reasons for rescinding the program, as DACA advocates have argued.

Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor demanded that U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who argued the case for the administration, identify whether the administration considered all the harm that ending the program would do, or if it was just a “choice to destroy lives.”

Francisco was repeatedly questioned as to why the administration has justified ending the program because of its purported unlawfulness instead of giving other reasons for why it wants to.

Toward the end of the argument Francisco pushed back, saying the administration was not trying to shirk responsibility for ending a popular program.

“We own this,” Francisco said, referring to Trump’s decision to kill DACA.

The lower courts ruled that Trump’s move to rescind DACA was likely “arbitrary and capricious” and violated a U.S. law called the Administrative Procedure Act.

The justices must determine whether administration officials failed to provide adequate reasons for the decision to end DACA. The initial memo rescinding DACA, the plaintiffs said, gave a “one-sentence explanation” and did not spell out why the administration believes the program is unlawful. The justices will also have to decide whether the administration’s action against DACA is even something courts can review.

Several hundred DACA supporters gathered outside the court on a gray and chilly Tuesday morning, chanting, banging drums and carrying signs that read “home is here” and “defend DACA.”

Anel Medina, a 28-year-old DACA enrollee and oncology nurse in Philadelphia, was among the demonstrators.

“It changed my life. I was able to get a job … finish nursing school,” said Medina, who was born in Mexico City and brought by her mother to the United States at age 5.

Medina said she was a college student and living without legal status when Obama launched DACA.

Graphic showing major cases currently before the Supreme Court: https://tmsnrt.rs/2mZn6MJ

‘A DEAL WILL BE MADE’

Trump has given mixed messages about the “Dreamers,” saying in 2017 that he has “a great love” for them even as he sought to kill a program that protected them from deportation. Ahead of the arguments on Tuesday, his tone was darker.

“Many of the people in DACA, no longer very young, are far from ‘angels.’ Some are very tough, hardened criminals,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Immigrants who had been convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor crimes were not eligible to apply to the DACA program and any DACA recipient can be stripped of the program’s protections and deported if they commit serious crimes.

Trump added, “If Supreme Court remedies with overturn, a deal will be made with Dems for them to stay!” Trump offered no details of any deal.

Trump previously has called on Congress to “advance responsible immigration reform” but never proposed a detailed replacement for DACA.

Obama created DACA to protect immigrants who as minors were brought into the United States illegally or overstayed a visa. Obama acted after Congress failed to pass a bipartisan immigration policy overhaul that would have provided a path to citizenship to these young immigrants.

The young people protected under DACA, Obama said, were raised and educated in the United States, grew up as Americans and often know little about their countries of origin.

The program, which allows eligible immigrants to obtain renewable two-year work permits, remains in effect for those already enrolled but the administration has refused to approve new applications.

The “Dreamers” moniker is based on the name of bipartisan legislation – never passed – called the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act that would have granted these young immigrants legal status.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung; Additional reporting by Ted Hesson and Susan Heavey; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Will Dunham)

Trump says Congress would act if top court rejects ‘Dreamers’

By Susan Heavey and Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Wednesday said the U.S. Congress could step in to protect the immigrants known as “Dreamers” if the Supreme Court endorses his plan to end a program protecting hundreds of thousands of these young adults who were brought into the country illegally as children.

“Republicans and Democrats will have a deal to let them stay in our country, in very short order,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on Nov. 12 over Trump’s 2017 plan to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama in 2012. The immigrants protected under the program often are called “Dreamers.”

Trump and Congress have been unable to agree on legislation that would protect the “Dreamers,” with deep differences between the president’s fellow Republicans and Democratic lawmakers. The failure of Congress to pass a bipartisan immigration package is what prompted Obama to create DACA.

The DACA program currently shields about 700,000 immigrants, mostly Hispanic young adults, from deportation and provides them work permits, though not a path to citizenship.

Trump’s move to rescind DACA was blocked by lower courts.

A ruling by the Supreme Court is due by the end of June.

Trump said on Twitter that if the Supreme Court upholds DACA – which is not the legal question in the case before the justices – it would give the president “extraordinary powers.”

The Trump administration has argued that Obama exceeded his constitutional powers when he bypassed Congress and created DACA.

Trump himself has sought to exercise broad presidential powers over immigration, including his travel ban on people entering the United States from several Muslim-majority countries. The Supreme Court upheld that policy in 2018, recognizing wide presidential authority in this area. Trump bypassed Congress in imposing the travel ban.

The legal question before the Supreme Court is whether Trump’s administration properly followed a federal law called the Administrative Procedure Act in the president’s plan to end DACA. The Supreme Court does not have to decide whether the DACA program itself was lawful.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Alison Williams and Will Dunham)

After long delay, U.S. Supreme Court may act on ‘Dreamers’ immigrants

FILE PHOTO: A police officer keeps watch at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., June 21, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court in the coming days will have a last chance before its three-month summer break to decide whether to take up President Donald Trump’s long-stalled bid to end a program that shields from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

The Trump administration on Nov. 5 asked the conservative-majority court to throw out three lower court rulings that blocked the Republican president’s 2017 plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program implemented in 2012 by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama.

The justices could have acted on the appeals as early as January but did not do so, with no reason given for the delay.

In the meantime, the DACA program remains in effect despite Trump’s efforts to terminate it, part of his hard-line immigration policies that have become a hallmark of his presidency and his 2020 re-election campaign.

DACA currently protects roughly 700,000 immigrants – mostly Hispanic young adults – from deportation and provides them work permits, though not a path to citizenship. These immigrants often are called “Dreamers” based on the name of previous failed legislation intended to provide them legal status.

The justices are in the last week of their current term, which began last October, with rulings due in eight remaining cases already argued. These include closely watched disputes over the Trump administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. census and whether limits can be set on partisan gerrymandering, a much-criticized practice in which state lawmakers manipulate electoral maps purely for partisan gain.

After the term’s final rulings, the justices have one final private meeting to decide on taking new cases for their next term, starting on Oct. 7. The next such meeting is not scheduled until Oct. 1.

The legal question before the Supreme Court is whether the administration properly followed a federal law called the Administrative Procedure Act in Trump’s plan to rescind DACA.

Three federal district court judges have issued orders halting Trump’s move to end DACA in lawsuits challenging the move filed by a group of states, people protected by the program, rights groups and others. Trump’s administration has argued that Obama exceeded his constitutional powers when he bypassed Congress and created the program.

Since the administration launched its appeal, a second regional federal appeals court ruled against Trump. The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on May 17 that Trump’s rescission of DACA was unlawful.

‘DISCRIMINATORY MOTIVATION’

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Nov. 8 upheld federal judge William Alsup’s January 2018 ruling against Trump, saying the challengers provided evidence of “discriminatory motivation, including the rescission order’s disparate impact on Latinos and persons of Mexican heritage.”

During the Supreme Court’s inaction, Trump and Congress have made no progress toward reaching a deal to safeguard DACA recipients even as Democratic presidential candidates including front-runner Joe Biden pledge actions to protect the Dreamers and offer them citizenship.

If the Supreme Court takes up the matter, arguments and a ruling would come in its term that ends in June 2020, in the contentious months before the November 2020 election. If the court had agreed in January to hear it, a ruling would have been due this week, potentially a full year before a decision is now rendered.

The court could also refuse to hear the appeals or simply take no action, which would leave the lower court rulings in place and let the program remain in effect.

Trump announced his decision to rescind DACA in September 2017, planning for the Dreamers’ protections to begin phasing out in March 2018. But courts in California, New York and the District of Columbia directed the administration to continue processing renewals of existing DACA applications while the litigation over the legality of Trump’s action was resolved.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

Senate plans votes to end shutdown, but solution still far off

A visitor walks by the U.S. Capitol on day 32 of a partial government shutdown as it becomes the longest in U.S. history in Washington, U.S., January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young

By Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Republican-led U.S. Senate planned votes on Thursday for competing proposals to end the partial government shutdown – both of which were likely to fail – as lawmakers and the White House sniped at each other over how to break their monthlong impasse.

Just hours before the Senate was scheduled to vote, there were signs that lawmakers might consider new ideas for ending the 34-day shutdown, which was triggered by Trump’s demand for money to fund his long-promised wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The shutdown has left hundreds of thousands of government workers furloughed or working without pay.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, told reporters that she was willing to meet face-to-face with Republican President Donald Trump to discuss the issue.

Her comment came one day after she announced that Trump’s State of the Union speech in the House chamber, scheduled for Tuesday, would not occur until the shutdown ended, despite the president’s plans to come. Trump, who considered giving the speech at another venue, conceded late on Wednesday and said he would deliver the speech in the House in the “near future.”

Trump wants $5.7 billion for the border barrier, opposed by Democrats, as part of any legislation to fund about a quarter of the federal government.

The longest such shutdown in U.S. history has left 800,000 federal workers, as well as private contractors, without pay and struggling to make ends meet, with the effects on government services and the economy reverberating nationwide.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Thursday urged furloughed federal workers to seek loans to pay their bills while adding in a CNBC interview that he couldn’t understand why they were having trouble getting by.

Pelosi denounced the comments.

“Is this the, ‘Let them eat cake’ kind of attitude or ‘Call your father for money?’ or ‘This is character building for you?'” Pelosi asked at a news conference.

She said she did not understand why Ross would make the comment “as hundreds of thousands of men and women are about to miss a second paycheck tomorrow.”

Trump had a response for Pelosi as well.

“Nancy just said she ‘just doesn’t understand why?’ Very simply, without a Wall it all doesn’t work. Our Country has a chance to greatly reduce Crime, Human Trafficking, Gangs and Drugs. Should have been done for decades. We will not Cave!” he said in a tweet.

VOTES PROCEED

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell planned a vote on Thursday afternoon on a Democratic proposal to fund the government for three weeks that does not include wall funding.

Its prospects looked dim in the Republican-majority Senate, although at least one conservative senator reportedly plans to back it. The Democratic-controlled House has passed similar bills but Trump has rejected legislation that does not include the wall funding.

McConnell has previously said he would not consider legislation that Trump did not support. The fact that he is willing to allow a vote suggests he may be trying to persuade lawmakers of both parties to compromise.

Republican Senator Cory Gardner intends to vote for the bill, the Denver Post said, citing the lawmaker’s spokesman. Gardner’s representatives could not be reached for immediately for comment.

McConnell also planned to hold a vote on a separate bill that includes wall funding and a temporary extension of protections for “Dreamers,” hundreds of thousands of people brought to the United States illegally as children, to reflect an offer Trump made on Saturday.

Democrats have dismissed Trump’s offer, saying they would not negotiate on border security before reopening the government and would not trade a temporary extension of the immigrants’ protections in return for a permanent border wall they have called ineffective, costly and immoral.

McConnell’s calculation may be that if both bills fail, Republicans and Democrats would be convinced to seek a deal.

One possibility emerged on Wednesday when House Democratic leaders floated the idea of giving Trump most or all of the money he seeks for security along the Mexican border but that could not be used to build a wall.

Representative James Clyburn, the No. 3 House Democrat, said Democrats could fulfill Trump’s request for $5.7 billion for border security with technological tools such as drones, X-rays and sensors, as well as more border patrol agents.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll last week found more than half of Americans blamed Trump for the shutdown even as he has sought to shift blame to Democrats after saying last month he would be “proud” to close the government for border security.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Roberta Rampton; Writing by Jeff Mason; Editing by Bill Trott)

Republican Senator Graham says Trump receptive to shutdown deal idea

Capitol Hill is seen as a partial U.S. government shutdown continues in Washington, U.S., December 30, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Young

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said on Sunday he was optimistic that Republicans, Democrats and President Donald Trump could reach a deal to end a government shutdown that includes border wall funding and legal status for some illegal immigrants.

FILE PHOTO: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) waits for U.S. President Donald Trump to enter the room to speak about the "First Step Act" in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, U.S. November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) waits for U.S. President Donald Trump to enter the room to speak about the “First Step Act” in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, U.S. November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

Graham, a Republican, told reporters after meeting Trump for lunch at the White House that Trump was receptive to Graham’s idea of a deal that might provide work permits to so-called Dreamers, people brought illegally to the United States as children, in exchange for money for physical border barriers.

“The president was upbeat, he was in a very good mood, and I think he’s receptive to making a deal,” Graham said, adding that Trump found the potential Dreamer concession “interesting.”

But the senator said there would never be a government spending deal that did not include money for a wall or other physical barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border. The wall was one of the central promises of Trump’s presidential campaign.

“I don’t see Democrats giving us more money unless they get something. So, the one thing we talked about is making deals,” Graham said.

“After lunch I’ve never been more encouraged that if we can get people talking we can find our way out of this mess and that would include around $5 billion for border security, slash wall, slash fencing whatever you want to call it in areas that make sense,” he added.

Trump later made clear on Twitter that he regarded a wall as necessary.

“President and Mrs. Obama built/has a ten foot Wall around their D.C. mansion/compound. I agree, totally necessary for their safety and security,” Trump wrote. “The U.S. needs the same thing, slightly larger version!”

Earlier, on CNN’s “State of the Union” program, Graham floated the idea of giving Democrats a version of stalled legislation to protect Dreamers from deportation in exchange for wall funding.

The Trump administration in 2017 announced plans to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, begun under former President Barack Obama to shield Dreamers from deportation. But Trump’s DACA phase-out has been delayed by court rulings against it.

With the partial government shutdown in its ninth day on Sunday, some other lawmakers were less upbeat about prospects for a deal to restore spending authority.

Republican Senator Richard Shelby warned on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that negotiations were at an impasse and the shutdown “could last a long, long time.”

Democratic U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries said the country needed comprehensive immigration reform and border security.

“We are not willing to pay $2.5 billion or $5 billion and wasting taxpayer dollars on a ransom note because Donald Trump decided that he was going to shut down the government and hold the American people hostage,” Jeffries said on ABC.

Democrats take control of the U.S. House of Representatives this week, following November’s congressional elections.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner and David Lawder; Additional reporting by Christopher Bing and Doina Chiacu; Writing by David Lawder; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Peter Cooney)

House Republicans short of votes to pass immigration bill: lawmaker

Migrant families from Mexico, fleeing from violence, listen to officers of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection before entering the United States to apply for asylum at Paso del Norte international border crossing bridge in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

By Richard Cowan and Amanda Becker

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have not yet rounded up the votes needed to pass immigration legislation they plan to take up later on Thursday, a member of the House Republican leadership said.

“Well, we’re working with our members. Obviously we have to get 218 votes and we’re working hard to get there,” Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the head of the House Republican Conference, told Fox News Channel.

“We’re not there yet but we’re working on it,” she said.

The House plans to vote on two bills designed to halt the practice of separating families entering the United States illegally and address a range of other immigration issues.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday stepped back from his administration’s practice of separating immigrant families that illegally cross the border, which had been part of his so-called zero tolerance policy on illegal immigration. He signed an executive order to stop the separations but it was unclear how children already taken from their parents would be reunited.

The policy shift faces legal challenges because of a court order that put a 20-day cap on how long minors can be detained, and the Trump administration has called for legislation to find a permanent fix.

Both House bills, backed by Trump but opposed by Democrats and immigration advocacy groups, would fund the wall Trump has proposed along the U.S. border with Mexico and reduce legal migration, in part by denying visas for some relatives of U.S. residents and citizens living abroad.

The more conservative bill would deny the chance of future citizenship to “Dreamers” – immigrants brought illegally into the United States years ago when they were children.

Even if a bill clears the House, it would face an uncertain future in the Senate, where lawmakers are considering different measures and where Republicans would need at least nine senators from the Democratic caucus to join them to ensure any bill could overcome procedural hurdles.

“What is the purpose of the House doing good immigration bills when you need 9 votes by Democrats in the Senate, and the Dems are only looking to Obstruct,” Trump said in a tweet on Thursday as he renewed his call for a change in Senate rules to allow legislation to move with a simple majority.

(Reporting by Tim Ahmann; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Trott)