The White House appears to have banned Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) from participating in immigration reform negotiations due to a recent strain between Graham and the Trump administration, as well as other Republicans in the House and Senate.
Tensions first rose when Graham advocated for an immigration deal that failed to address President Donald Trump’s main concerns regarding chain migration and border security alongside Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). The situation worsened when the Republican senator criticized chief of staff John Kelly as never having “closed a deal before, politically” and top policy adviser Stephen Miller as being an “outlier” on immigration, according to The Washington Examiner.
“It is almost appalling to me that you have a senator that isn’t stepping up, doing the right thing,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an interview with Fox News on Monday. “Look, we want to make a deal on DACA. We want to do these things. And the fact that he’s not part of the conversation to help move that ball forward and is instead attacking individual members of the president’s staff, I think, shows … they’re going to blame people for their own failures. And I think it’s time that they stop playing political games, come to the table, get serious and do their jobs.”
A GOP aide told the Examiner that allowing Graham to take part in immigration discussions could ruin the chances of any deal being reached on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
“Anything that Graham is a leader on is, honestly, dead on arrival in terms of the White House and also in the House,” the aide told the publication. “The problem right now, even more than policies, is the personalities, the people who want to spearhead their sides of the aisle. I don’t think Graham carries weight in the GOP conference.”
Staffers within the White House also said Durbin would be difficult to work with on the issue.
“I respect Durbin and the rest of them, but their version of solving this problem is not the president’s version of solving this problem,” a senior White House aide said. “What Sen. Graham, Sen. Durbin, Sen. Flake, those kinds of people are doing relative to a DACA bill is just not where [Trump] is, and not where the Senate and the House is.”
A deal on DACA must be made before March 5, the deadline set by President Trump in September in order to extend protections for the 690,000 immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Durbin did not respond to the Examiner’s request for comment.