McCarthy: ‘No deadline on DACA’

01/16/18 09:16 PM EST

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Tuesday that a recent court decision in favor of “Dreamers” has greatly reduced the pressure on GOP leaders to pass legislation related to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“There is no deadline on DACA,” McCarthy said as he left a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the Capitol basement on Tuesday night.

Some lawmakers — including at least one Republican, Rep. Carlos Curbelo (Fla.) — are threatening to oppose a short-term spending bill this week over the exclusion of a legislative fix to DACA, an Obama-era program which President Trump announced last year that he would rescind.

McCarthy, the second-ranking House Republican, accused those lawmakers of jeopardizing the military personnel reliant on an extension of Pentagon funding, which expires with the rest of the budget on Saturday.

He pointed to a recent court decision by a federal judge in California, who blocked the administration’s move to end DACA, as the reason Congress is facing less urgency to act.

“You had the court case going forward, so why would they harm the military over something that’s not shut down?” McCarthy said.

Trump announced the end of DACA last September, saying former President Obama lacked the legal authority to create the program without congressional approval.

But the president has indicated his support for the concept of DACA and challenged Congress to enact a legislative fix for those affected by his decision to wind down the program, setting a March 5 deadline.

Immigrant rights advocates in both parties have urged GOP leaders to consider a DACA fix quickly, emphasizing that thousands of people have fallen out of the temporary program since September, losing certain legal protections in the process.

But last week's recent federal court decision has changed the political dynamics, lending Republicans a new reason not to address DACA as part of this month’s spending debate.

The temporary stay has forced the administration to accept DACA renewal applications. The Justice Department announced Tuesday that it would appeal the decision and put the issue before the Supreme Court.

“Not only was the original deadline for the DACA program March 5, but the administration has now … started renewing these permits again,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), an immigration hard-liner, told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday.

“So there’s no urgency right now to try to ram through a major change in immigration law by Friday.”

McCarthy is among the lawmakers involved in bipartisan talks seeking a DACA deal — a group that includes the deputy leaders of each chamber, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). McCarthy said the group will meet again Wednesday.

“I’d like to get the border secure and get all that done as soon as possible,” McCarthy said. “I don’t put a deadline on it, [but] I’d like to get it done.

“The more it lingers, the more problems we create.”

Curbelo said he has faith in McCarthy’s efforts to secure a DACA deal. But in the meantime, he’s voicing frustrations that the leaders of his own party don’t share his urgency in passing a bill.

He’s withholding his support for this week’s spending package to highlight his discontent.

“Unless we have any measurable progress towards an immigration deal, I’m out. Too much is at stake — 800,000 lives … and I’m not going to stand idle,” Curbelo said.

“There is a great lack of political courage here and only when there’s no other option does Congress act. So I’m essentially trying to fast-forward that process.

“These are people who could lose everything from one day to the next.”