Alex Brandon, AP
President Donald Trump speaks about the partial government shutdown, immigration and border security in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, in Washington, Saturday, Jan. 19.

On Saturday, President Trump addressed America in what was one of the steadiest and strongest speeches he has delivered in the first two years of his administration. Despite several unnecessary half-truths and questionable facts, he nevertheless laid out a straight-forward “third way” proposal to break the logjam in Congress.

The president's commonsense compromise plan builds on proposals both Democrats and Republicans have supported in the past. The question now is, what will House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy do?

They should all get to the floor of their respective chambers and begin the process of debating, amending and voting.

The primary elements the president called for included:

  • Three years of temporary protections for DACA recipients. This is in line with the bipartisan Bridge Act proposed by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C.
  • A three-year extension of the Temporary Protected Status program, or TPS.
  • $5.7 billion for border barrier construction.
  • $800 million for humanitarian crisis aid at the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • $805 million for drug detection technologies at ports of entry.
  • 2,750 more border agents and other law enforcement officials.
  • 75 new immigration judge teams to alleviate the immigration-court backlog.

The president succeeded in shifting the conversation stalemate into the Democrats' court. Sadly, Speaker Pelosi dismissed the proposal as a non-starter even before the president addressed the nation. That may be good politics for her, but is bad for citizens, government workers, border agents and asylum seekers.

There is certainly room for negotiating on the length of the protection extension for DACA and TPS recipients, the dollar amount for barrier funding and other elements of the proposal. Lawmakers could also discuss the paths to certain status or citizenship for young Dreamers and how to compassionately deal with true asylum seekers. The plan, however, is by far the strongest starting point either Democrats or Republicans have had to end the shutdown, deal with the humanitarian crisis and improve America’s immigration system.

If Democrats refuse to even come to the table to debate and amend the proposed bill, they risk the label of politically irrational and personally irresponsible when it comes to dealing with these serious issues. Would congressional Democrats really vote against helping the Dreamers, asylum seekers, children at the border and furloughed federal workers just to score political points or to spite the president? If they won’t engage, they should be held to account by the American people.

The far right also responded harshly to the president’s proposal. Immigration hardliner Ann Coulter said, "Trump proposes amnesty. We voted for Trump and got Jeb (Bush)!"

The president seems to have become an equal opportunity offender of the far left and far right. That is usually a good indication that the policy fits the center-left, center-right majority of the nation.

The president could strengthen the position by reminding Democrats that it was President Obama who created the current DACA situation, because he determined Congress was simply too divided to act. President Trump has shown restraint in not doing the same. President Trump could remind Republicans that rule of law and compassion are principles they profess to believe and that now is the time to prove it. He could give Congress a 10-day deadline for both sides to act through debates, amendments and votes in front of the American people.

56 comments on this story

The president’s proposal isn't perfect. But it is the best news to come out of Washington in a long time. He should be commended for putting forward a proposal built on policy ideas initiated and voted for by members of both political parties in both chambers of Congress.

Congressional leaders should get their members back to Washington and on the floor of their chambers. The American people should weigh in by calling their representatives and challenging them to engage in good faith and act. Pelosi and McConnell should take their places, C-SPAN should ready the cameras for the nation to watch and the president should ready his pen to sign a bipartisan solution into law.