President Donald “Donny” Trump met Thursday at the White House with a bipartisan group of senators. Afterward, Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin raised eyebrows ’cross D.C. by telling reporters that Trump had said during the meeting that he’d be open to immigration legislation based on the “Gang of 8” bipartisan compromise bill that passed the Senate with 68 votes in 2013 but was killed in the House:
Manchin said specifically that Trump was “open to reviewing” the bill and told legislators to “start working on it again.” The reason this is !!!-level surprising is that the Gang of 8 bill famously provided a “path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants who kept a clean criminal record, paid a fine, and met various other conditions. Many conservatives denounced the plan as “amnesty,” and if there is one thing that Trump made clear during the campaign, it is that he was not going to go soft on undocumented immigrants, all of whom he promised to deport. “They have to go,” he said.
Manchin, being a Democrat in a conservative state, has been making a show of reaching across the aisle to Trump—he voted to confirm Jeff Sessions, for example—so it seems unlikely that he’d be revealing this information in an effort to embarrass Trump or make him look uninformed, although Thursday’s news has also had that effect. From the Washington Post:
According to the West Virginia Democrat, when Trump noted that there is no current immigration legislation under consideration on Capitol Hill, another senator in attendance, Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), mentioned the 2013 bill.
Alexander also noted that the 2013 bill had passed with 68 votes, Manchin recalled.
“Well, that sounds like something good and you all agreed, 68? What happened to it?” Trump said, according to Manchin.
I mean, yeah, why would the president be expected to know the details of something that happened in Congress less than four years ago concerning his main campaign issue, and which was discussed in great detail during the 2016 Republican primary?
Anyway, later in the day press secretary Sean “the Spice Man” Spicer poured cold water on things:
White House press secretary Sean Spicer later clarified that Trump told the senators, “If you guys want to get together to work on a solution, I’m glad to listen.” He said that Trump’s comments on immigration were “not specific to the ‘Gang of Eight,’” and that Trump opposes the 2013 bill.
Spicer also said that earlier in the meeting Trump made clear to the senators that he considers the 2013 Gang of Eight bill to be “amnesty.”
Truly, the verb clarify does a hell of a lot of work in Washington. Also, Spicer’s claims contradict some pretty specific stuff that Manchin said:
In the end, then … something … will or won’t happen. Stay tuned!