Liberal Groups Urge Democrats ‘Stand Strong’ on Shutdown

Ahead of vote to reopen the government, Democrats take heat from base

Supporters of so-called Dreamers, immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, protest outside the Capitol on Jan. 21. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Supporters of so-called Dreamers, immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, protest outside the Capitol on Jan. 21. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted January 22, 2018 at 12:28pm

A coalition of liberal groups urged Democrats to reject a proposal to reopen the government Monday, calling on them to “stand strong” and insist that a spending deal include an array of demands, rather than a promise to address issues like immigration at a later date.

Senators are scheduled to vote at noon Monday on a three-week continuing resolution that includes a six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, but not protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made a commitment Sunday night that he would take up immigration legislation if there is no action by the end of those three weeks on Feb. 8.

But liberals aren’t buying it, and they’re urging Senate Democrats to reject the proposal.

“We heard this record before,” said Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “This is not a credible offer to solve this crisis. Thousands of dreamers will be at risk by Feb. 8”

Gupta joined the leaders of 10 other liberal outside groups and immigration advocates, including Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Indivisible,, United We Dream, and the Service Employees International Union.

On Friday, five Democrats, four of them up for re-election this year in states that President Donald Trump won, bucked their party and voted to advance a House-passed GOP bill to fund the government. Most Democrats rejected the legislation because it did not include protections for those undocumented immigrants, also known as Dreamers.

Watch: Working the Weekend — Highlights from the Shutdown Floor Debate

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Trump announced last year he would end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, which protected the Dreamers from deportation. The program officially ends in March and Democrats see the spending negotiations as leverage to ensure protection for those immigrants.

“We’re terrified that what we’re headed for is nothing unless we get a deal on the last train leaving the station,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of the immigrant advocacy group America’s Voice.

But it is not clear if there will be a liberal backlash against those Democrats who voted for the GOP proposal. Four of them — Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana — are among the most vulnerable incumbents this year. The fifth, Alabama Democrat Doug Jones, is not up for re-election until 2020.

None of the liberal group leaders said there would be specific fundraising or challenger consequences for those Democrats.

“The overwhelming focus of the grass-roots progressive movement from coast to coast and everywhere in between is winning the kind of bipartisan deal that most Americans support,” said Ben Wikler, Washington director for “And the Democratic caucus by standing strong together with support from several Republicans is keeping open a path to make a bipartisan deal possible.”

But Greisa Martínez Rosas, a DACA recipient and advocacy director for United We Dream, said members of both parties would face consequences for not protecting Dreamers and for the general dysfunction in Congress.

“I think there is a desire from the American people for Congress to get to work,” Martínez Rosas said. For lawmakers not meeting that requirement, “2018 is a moment of reckoning for all of them,” she added.