Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told President Trump this week that there will be no deal on Dreamers if hard-line conservative GOP Sen. Tom Cotton is involved, according to several congressional sources.
Schumer also told the president that he was not being well served by White House staffers during negotiations over the fate of 700,000 young immigrants who face potential deportation if no deal is reached to protect them.
Trump grew defensive during the private exchange, which took place as both men were attending the Congressional Gold Medal event for former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kansas) in the Capitol on Wednesday, the sources said.
Cotton — and his role in the hugely controversial Jan. 11 Oval Office meeting over a potential Senate bipartisan compromise on Dreamers — has become a focus of particular Senate Democrats’ ire. There seems to be something about the Arkansas Republican that especially angers them, and they’re not shy about letting Trump know it.
In a brief interview, Cotton said Schumer did not want him the room for the Dreamers’ talks “probably because I would get a good deal, and he wants a bad deal.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Schumer’s office also declined to comment on his conversation with Trump.
For a number of Senate Democrats, Cotton — brash, conservative and largely uninterested in compromise — is the personification of what is wrong with the GOP right now.
Democrats are upset that Cotton and Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) — but particularly Cotton — backed the president’s assertion that he did not use racist language during the Jan. 11 meeting. Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.) said that Trump said he did not want immigrants from “shithole nations” like Haiti or Africa, but asked why there couldn’t be more immigrants from Norway.
Although GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) confirmed Trump made the statement, but Cotton and Perdue denied it. Cotton did so in very clear terms.
“I didn’t hear it, and I was sitting no further away from Donald Trump than Dick Durbin was,” Cotton said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “And I know what Dick Durbin has said about the president’s repeated statements is incorrect.”
Democrats were upset that Cotton tried to redirect the controversy toward Durbin. They want to banish Cotton from any discussions about a Dreamers deal, arguing that he is too toxic to be involved.
On the Senate floor Thursday, Schumer said White House Chief of Staff John Kelly “has insisted that Sen. Cotton and Rep. [Bob] Goodlatte be in the room for negotiations on DACA.”
Schumer added, “There is no deal that Sen. Cotton or Rep. Goodlatte could forge that could earn the majority of either the House or the Senate… If Sen. Cotton and Rep. Goodlatte have veto power over an agreement, everyone knows there won’t be an agreement.”