Immigration Torments GOP as Feel-Good Retreat Kicks Off

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Congressional Republicans arrived here Wednesday for their annual retreat dogged by internal divisions over immigration — and seemingly intent on avoiding the issue altogether.

The schedule for the three-day gathering at a luxury 11,000 acre-resort in the Appalachians does not include a single session on immigration. This despite a deadline barely a month away to extend protections to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants facing deportation — and the logjam that dilemma has caused for Republican priorities like boosting defense spending.

Instead, Republicans — rattled by a deadly collision between a truck and an Amtrak train carrying lawmakers to the retreat — are set to hold sessions to congratulate themselves for tax reform, talk about infrastructure, and learn how to make care packages for troops.

Leadership’s unwillingness to confront the internal divide over immigration comes as Republicans are turning on each other in a battle for the soul of their party. The Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program expires March 5, though a recent court action has softened that deadline. President Donald Trump decided last fall to terminate the program, and the Senate is preparing to take up an immigration debate in February.

But the party is all over the place on how, or even whether, to act to shield the beneficiaries.

The internal tensions threaten to overshadow the entire year in Congress and color the midterm elections, with control of both chambers on the line. If Republicans can’t get past immigration, it’s possible they won’t be able to address spending, infrastructure or other priorities that are already seen as reaches in an election year. The standoff over immigration is at the heart of the ongoing fight over government spending, too — the latest deadline to prevent another shutdown is now only a week away.

“That’s a pretty big schism, between the House and the Senate,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 3 GOP leader. “And so I just think that we need to be really aware, if we want to get a result, what the limitations are in both bodies.”

It’s hard to see where an immigration compromise might lie.

By Rachael Bade and Burgess Everett for POLITICO
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