Democrats keep eye on November polls in agreeing to end shutdown

This article is more than 12 months old

Senate Democratic leader climbs down on immigration to reach spending bill deal

WASHINGTON: In agreeing on Monday to end a three-day US government shutdown, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer had to make a tough decision to bridge a divide within his own party over immigration, an issue on which Americans are deeply conflicted, according to new Reuters/Ipsos polling data.

Democratic leftists wanted him to drive a harder bargain on helping the Dreamers, young people brought to the US illegally as children who face the threat of deportation under an order issued last year by Republican President Donald Trump.

But moderate Senate Democrats facing re-election challenges this year feared that prolonging the shutdown over the immigration issue would hurt them in November's congressional elections. In the end, Mr Schumer sided with them.

By opting to placate senators crucial to his drive to seize control of the Senate from Republicans, Mr Schumer angered the party's left, potentially complicating already difficult efforts to craft legislation to help the Dreamers.

His predicament underscored deep ambivalence among Americans on immigration.

Fifty-five per cent of Americans in a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Monday said the government should not shut down, even if that means letting the Dreamers get deported.

At the same time, 87 per cent of Democrats and 60 per cent of Republicans said they supported the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme that protects the Dreamers from deportation.

Mr Trump announced in September that the programme would end in March.

In an example of hardline views among many Republicans on immigration, Senator Ted Cruz said it would be a "serious mistake" to provide "amnesty and a path to citizenship for millions of people here illegally".

Republican attacks on Mr Schumer's decision were "no doubt causing heartburn with some Democrats," said Mr Jim Manley, once a top aide to former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Still, he said, the Democratic stand on Dreamers had been effective and would play out in the party's favour by energising its base, something crucial in a year when voter turnout is lower than in presidential elections. - REUTERS