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WASHINGTON – Democratic lawmakers are not ruling out shutting down the government at the end of the year should Republicans not pass the DREAM Act, protecting undocumented immigrants who were raised in the United States.
At a press conference hosted by the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus at the Capitol on Tuesday, Democratic members played coy with what might happen if beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (also known as DACA) are left behind come December.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, of California, noted that while President Donald Trump gave Congress a six-month window, she hopes to wrap things up by the end of October.
“But we must pass something before we leave for Christmas, that’s for sure,” she said.
New York Rep. Joe Crowley, who currently serves as the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said his colleagues are keeping all options are on the table should negotiations break down.
“Our caucus will not stop,” Crowley said. “We will find whatever vehicle we need to to get this bill passed to ensure that the dreamers will be able to continue to enrich their lives here and contribute to their country, America.”
Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington told Business Insider that Democrats are working on a discharge petition to get the bill to the House floor, which is “the most important thing for us.”
“I think that there’s a lot of expressions of support from Republicans,” Jayapal added. “The question is does that turn into legislation.”
A discharge petition requires at least 218 signatures from House lawmakers to get a bill to the floor regardless of whether the Republican leadership wants to move forward. While Democrats currently hold 194 seats, they will need at least 24 Republicans to get on board with their cause.
With regard to whether a potential shutdown is in the cards, Jayapal said, “If Republicans are not willing to bring this to the floor – then of course we’ll look at every means.”
California Rep. Judy Chu was less focused on potential fights in the winter, telling Business Insider that while “it’s very very essential that we pass this DREAM Act bill, I think we should try every means possible right now, including a discharge petition.”
“So since we’re in September, let’s try every means possible that we can in September, October, and November to make sure that we can get the DREAM Act passed before we even contemplate that possibility,” she said.
Currently, Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, a Democrat, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican, have pushed for a bipartisan effort to push forward with the DREAM Act.
“The reason I think it will get done now is that the leadership of the Republican Party, including the president, realizes it’s good for the country economically and otherwise to give these kids the certainty they need in their lives,” Durbin said at a press conference last week.
While both Graham and Durbin, who were members of the 2013 “Gang of Eight” immigration reform effort, are urging their colleagues to move forward, Congress faces a busy schedule in the final few months of the year, which could complicate the DREAM Act effort.