WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accused the House’s top Democrat on Monday of “irresponsible racial invective” that’s hurting the chances for a bipartisan immigration deal.
McConnell, R-Ky., didn’t specify to what he was referring. But his comments on the Senate floor came four days after Rep. Nancy Pelosi said the immigration plan that President Donald Trump released last week was part of his “unmistakable campaign to make America white again.”
McConnell’s remarks — and a sharp retort by the spokesman for the House minority leader — came as bargainers made no apparent progress toward crafting a bipartisan immigration agreement. They’re seeking an accord that would shield from deportation hundreds of thousands of young people in the U.S. illegally after arriving as children, protections that Trump has ended, plus boost border security and possibly impose other restrictions.
Democrats have criticized Trump’s package for including steps that would limit legal immigration and strengthen federal efforts to find and eject immigrants in the U.S. illegally. Conservatives have opposed it for proposing a pathway to citizenship for up to 1.8 million people who’ve been protected under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.
“The type of irresponsible racial invective used yet again on this subject by the Democratic leader of the House is decidedly unhelpful,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “Those comments are precisely the kind of divisive partisanship that can dim the prospects that a bipartisan compromise could become law.”
He said Democrats should “put serious, good-faith discussions ahead of cheap partisan point-scoring.”
In response, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said McConnell had “found his voice” after not commenting on a White House meeting at which Trump used a profanity to describe African countries.
“He couldn’t find the courage to say a thing” about that meeting, Hammill said. “Apparently, Senator McConnell is more offended by pointing out the administration’s dog whistles than the hateful bigotry itself.”
Congressional and White House bargainers met Monday but said they’d reached no agreement.
No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Dick Durbin of Illinois said “we are not even close” to a deal. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the chamber’s No. 2 GOP leader, said he “was not seeing much engagement” from Democratic leaders on Trump’s plan.
Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.