Now that 2017 is almost over, the next big issue for Democrats on Capitol Hill will be legislation to aid so-called Dreamers – children born in foreign counties and brought here without documentation but who grew up as Americans – to keep them from deportation, Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, said Friday.
“That will be our No. 1 priority,” he said in a meeting with local reporters.
Currently, the so-called dreamers are protected by the federal policy known Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The DACA issue must be solved quickly because “the time clock is ticking,” Costa said.
“We’ve got about three more months, which if we don’t provide legal status to these individuals, the president has indicated he’ll begin deporting these individuals,” he said.
Democrats are the minority party in both houses of Congress – but, Costa said, his party has leverage because budget reconciliation legislation requires 60 votes in the Senate and the partisan margin there will be 51-49.
“We hope that’s where bipartisan compromises will take place,” he said.
Costa said he and others were “very upset” when dreamer legislation was left out of stop-gap funding to keep the government running. Still, “we succeeded in raising the bar and the level of awareness among both the White House and the Senate.”
We’ve got about three more months, which if we don’t provide legal status to these individuals, the president has indicated he’ll begin deporting these individuals.
Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno
Spending for roads, dams, bridges and other infrastructure will also be a major focus of Congress in 2018, and President Trump’s statement Friday that bipartisanship is needed to pass an infrastructure bill is a good sign, Costa said.
Some work has been done already because the administration has been meeting with representatives, including himself, about a bipartisan infrastructure package, he said.
“One of the real challenges that I’ve been trying to champion for years is that we put the same kind of investment in America’s infrastructure as our parents and our grandparents did,” Costa said.
Big-ticket projects such as the proposed Temperance Flat dam, raising San Luis Dam and fixing the San Joaquin Delta require federal funding, he said. He said he’s trying to make the case that counties such as Fresno that already have half-cent sales taxes for transportation and other projects deserve federal money because “they’ve got skin in the game.”
“We need to make Highway 99 an entire six-lane freeway from Bakersfield to Sacramento,” he said, and rail corridors and high-speed rail needs funding.
For the year now ending, he said he’d give Congress “at best a C-minus” – and there’s a case for a lower grade.
A “dysfunctional nature” in Congress makes it hard to approve a budget, he said: “We haven’t passed a budget with regular order, with all 11 spending bills, in eight years.”
Costa voted no on the controversial tax bill that just passed but said it has pluses and minuses.
The law worsens the $20 trillion national debt, he said: “We’re adding $2 trillion in additional debt…that’s irresponsible.”
The bill also is “punitive to states like California” because it killed deductions for state, local and property taxes, although there’s an exemption for some property taxes, he said.
“On the plus side, clearly Americans received a tax return that they deserved. It’s their money, after all,” he said.
But the bill should have been better than it is, he said.
“I would have liked to have seen better balance for middle-class Americans and I thought it was unfair that it made the tax reductions for corporations permanent but for individuals we made them temporary,” Costa said. “Hopefully, that will change.”