Let me share a few thoughts about President Trump’s decision to end DACA. If reports are to be believed – and I suspect they generally are – the President was conflicted on this decision. He wanted to satisfy his promise to his core voters but he also did not want to get the blame for the impact of the decision. This is an important distinction between not wanting to inflict human suffering and not wanting to get blamed for it. In any case, as he put it in his tweet this morning, he’s leaving it up to Congress to prevent the carnage.
It’s important to note that there’s a way a normal President would handle this if you were not averse to the policy itself but believed it was either not legal or would not survive a judicial challenge. In that case a President brings together members of both parties in Congress and tries to put together a legislative fix. That would be a serious challenge under present circumstances. But it wouldn’t be impossible. It is worth noting here that there are almost certainly enough votes in Congress to make some version of DACA law. The key question is whether Speaker Paul Ryan would allow such a bill to come to a vote in the House since it would probably need to pass mainly with Democratic votes.
In any case, that’s how you do it. Take no action until there’s a prepackaged plan ready to go in Congress that has buy-in from all the key players: the White House, congressional leadership of both parties etc. Not easy. But it’s not impossible.
What Trump is actually doing is designed not to get a good outcome but rather to avoid blame for a bad outcome. That’s a major difference. Indeed, the way he’s going about it makes getting a legislative fix much harder. Now Democrats will rightly see any negotiations with the President on this front as negotiation with a bad actor. It’s not much better for the GOP. The real legislative problem here is on the Republican side. This triggers as significant intra-party fight under duress. No Republican leaders can be happy about that. Let’s hope they can make something happen. But the President’s approach is designed to make such an effort fail.
What the President is doing is the executive action equivalent of flying the plane up to 10,000 feet, tossing the Dreamers out the door and yelling after them, “I hope you have a parachute or if you don’t that Paul Ryan can get you one really fast!’ Actually, one small difference. He had Jeff Sessions toss them out of the plane. The big picture is the same: this is an approach meant not to achieve any good outcome but to get out of the blame when bad things start happening.