Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that she won't back a bill that allows the federal government to spend money unless Congress has a legislative fix to address the legal status of hundreds of thousands of people brought to the country illegally as children.
"I will not vote for an end-of-year spending bill until we are clear about what we are going to do to protect and take care of our DACA young people in this country," Harris said. "Each day in the life of these young people is a very long time, and we've got to stop playing politics with their lives."
President Trump announced in September that he was giving Congress until March before the program would shutter and recipients would begin losing work permits and protection from deportation. An estimated 200,000 of the nearly 800,000 recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program live in California, giving the Golden State an outsized stake in resolving their legal status.
Harris spoke at a Capitol Hill news conference Wednesday with other members of the California delegation to urge quick action on the issue.
"It is absolutely urgent that we pass the legislation," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said. "We are determined that the Dream Act will be the law of the land before the year is out."
Democrats and Republicans are negotiating the details of a fix, and when something could pass. Pelosi has hinted that if Republicans don't have the votes within their party to pass the end-of-year spending bill, which Congress has to pass to keep the government open, Democrats will offer their votes — for a price.
The Huffington Post reported that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told conservative Republicans behind closed doors this week that a DACA fix could be added to the spending bill, something sure to infuriate some in his party. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said a "bipartisan consensus" is coming together on a DACA solution that will include border security, though he didn’t provide additional details besides no border wall.
Durbin said he is aiming to get a DACA fix passed before Congress considers the spending bill, which is expected to be one of the last major things lawmakers do this year, but that many Democrats in the House and Senate share Harris’ sentiment.
“There are few opportunities and many things to do before the end of the session, before Christmas. We are seizing any available opportunity to move the Dream Act,” Durbin said. “Many of us feel we couldn’t in good conscience go home for Christmas without seeing this law passed.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said that with Trump's urging, Congress should find a fix and there is "no reason not to go ahead."
"I view this bill as the most important thing we can get done now — both political parties," Feinstein said. "The president is for it, hopefully he doesn't want an arm and a leg for it, but he understands how important this is and we can get it done."