Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House and an ally of President Donald Trump, urged the White House and Senate Republican leaders to make changes to Trump-endorsed border legislation coming to a vote this week to attract more Democratic votes.
“I think that that’s misdesigned. I mean, you either design a deal that gets you Democrats, or you don’t,” Gingrich told USA TODAY on the 33rd day of the government shutdown. “If you’re trying to attract people with sugar, you shouldn’t pour vinegar on top of it.”
Congress and the White House are locked in an impasse that has led to the longest government shutdown on record over Trump’s demands for $5.7 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump has threatened to veto any legislation that doesn’t provide money for the structure. Democrats, who oppose the wall, are refusing to give it to him.
Gingrich said White House aides, who have been working with Senate Republicans on the legislation that is scheduled for a vote on Thursday, made a “big mistake” by including provisions in it that Democrats strongly oppose, such as making it harder for minors from Central America to seek asylum.
Without changes, he said, the legislation will fail.
Over the weekend Trump laid out a proposal that, in addition to allocating $5.7 billion for a wall along the southern border, would grant relief to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and for people deemed to have Temporary Protected Status (TPS) because of a crisis in their home countries.
Trump has cast his offer as a compromise, saying the provisions for undocumented young immigrants – known as “Dreamers” – and for the TPS recipients are proposals Democrats should welcome.
Gingrich, who was speaker during the second-longest shutdown on record (21 days in late 1995 and early 1996), said the proposal the president outlined in his speech last week and released by the White House made him “very happy.” But after more details came out, it relieved pressure on Democrats and effectively doomed the Senate bill, he said.
“They will get many more votes if they clean the bill up. If they keep the bill the way it is now, I don’t see any way they can pass it,” said Gingrich.
“This was just plain a mistake.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced Tuesday the chamber will vote to begin debate on the White House proposal.
If that bill fails to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster, which seems likely, senators will then vote to begin debate on a short-term measure that would reopen the government until Feb. 8. It is unclear if that bill has enough votes to pass, but the president has said he would veto that bill if it is sent to his desk.