An unusual thing is going to happen this afternoon at 1:30 in room HC-5 at the U.S. Capitol—a conference committee of Senate and House members will meet to try to work out a compromise on the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, including the issues of a border wall and immigration reform. 

It’s unusual because, too often, that’s not how things work in Washington anymore on big issues.  Typically, controversial issues are demagogued in the media until the party in power manages to force through a bill or the minority party is able to block the effort. 

The conference committee has become anathema to Congress because that’s where members of both parties try to reach [shudder] a compromise.  But that’s what this committee is going to try to do, as we steam toward another potential partial shutdown in less than three weeks. 

President Trump only gives the committee a 50-50 chance of success, but Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito, who is one of seven senators on the committee, is more hopeful. 

U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)

“We do hard things all the time,” Capito said on Talkline Monday.  “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to do this hard thing.”  Well, yes, if a couple of people are not in the meeting—namely Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

If Trump and Pelosi can stay on the sidelines for now, a good place to start discussions would be with the Homeland Security Appropriations bill that actually passed out of committee with bipartisan support.

Capito played a key role with that bill as chair of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee. In a release after the bill cleared the Appropriations Committee, Capito said the bill included $14.3 billion for “customs and border protection,” which was an increase of $239 million from the current year. 

“The total fully funds the president’s budget request (of $1.6 billion) for the border wall system, making a major downpayment on border security.”

We know now that the president backed away from that deal, upping to $5.6 billion the amount he wanted for the border wall.  Capito defends the president’s new position, arguing that the situation at the border has worsened. 

“We fulfilled his request in a bipartisan way,” Capito said.  “I think the situation has worsened and he came back and said: ‘Actually, I need more.’  That’s where we ran into a stumbling block.”

Capito adds that Republicans are willing to make immigration reforms part of the deal as a compromise with Democrats, including solving the DACA issue.   

“I can speak for most of my fellow Republicans,” Capito told me. “They have a lot of empathy for the young people when they came in, and giving them a permanent status is the fairest way to approach this.”

This should be an ideal issue for a compromise—border wall for DACA—were these sane times, but they are not, which means Trump’s prediction of only a 50-50 chance of a deal may be overly optimistic.

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