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McConnell: One week only to solve DACA

‘There’s no reason why we should not reach a bipartisan solution this week,’ the Senate majority leader says.


Mitch McConnell is not going to let the immigration debate get out of hand.

The Senate majority leader on Tuesday announced that the Senate’s work on a solution to the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will be limited to this week. McConnell said Democrats should have been ready for this week’s crucial test of whether the Senate can produce 60 votes for an immigration bill.

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“Senators have had plenty of time to prepare. There’s no reason why we should not reach a bipartisan solution this week. But to do this, we need to get the debate started, look past making political points and focus on actually making law,” McConnell said.

McConnell later attempted to set up floor votes on a sanctuary cities amendment from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and a competing proposal chosen by Democrats. But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) objected, saying the Toomey language “doesn’t address Dreamers, nor does it address border security” — the two basic elements at the center of this week’s debate.

“Let’s get this debate started on the right foot,” Schumer said. He proposed a pair of votes, on a GOP amendment to implement the president’s immigration framework and, from Democrats, a bill by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) that addresses Dreamers as well as border security.

The McCain-Coons proposal, which includes no border wall funding, has no support from the White House and would likely fail.

Several Republican senators were under the impression last week that McConnell could allow multiple weeks of debate. That prospect seems to have faded, though, as senators race to submit their amendments to a blank immigration bill now on the Senate floor.

Two Republican amendments are expected to be ready imminently: The Republican effort to codify President Donald Trump’s immigration framework and a compromise plan from Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) that follows some of the contours of Trump’s vision. Senate Democrats are also considering whether to introduce a partisan Democratic bill, according to one Democratic senator, and several bipartisan proposals are under discussion. Flake is also expected to introduce a bare-bones amendment enshrining DACA protections for three years in exchange for some increased border security.

But Republicans have chafed at talk of a centrist proposal to protect people eligible for DACA offered by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). The pair have yet to officially introduce their idea.

“A week is enough time. We can do this. And we should do it,” Durbin responded on Tuesday. “I’ve got everything ready. I can give them five amendments today if he wants them. And [McConnell] knows what’s in these things. It’s no secret.”

Durbin said he’s trying to fuse border security and protections for DACA recipients with some changes to family-based immigration. He said both Trump’s plan and the DREAM Act supported by Democrats will fail on their own: “It has to be something in between.”

Graham, like Durbin, declined to commit to pushing for a vote on a version of their plan. The ideal outcome, Graham said on Tuesday, remains “a consensus amendment that can get 70 votes.” He called the GOP version of Trump’s immigration framework “pretty good,” calling for “some compromise off that proposal.”

President Donald Trump is pictured. | Getty Images

Once senators in both parties produce some amendments, McConnell is prepared to hold alternating votes between Democratic and Republican immigration amendments, according to a Republican senator. That senator predicted none will get 60 votes in the current political environment.

“This is a very difficult issue. We’re all aware of that,” said Schumer on Tuesday. “We’re on the verge, it’s still hard. We’re not there yet, but we can get something done.”

McConnell is supporting Trump’s framework to cut legal immigration, provide $ 25 billion in wall funding and establish a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants. But the plan faces overwhelming opposition from Senate Democrats.

“I believe it deserves support of every senator who’s ready to move beyond making points and actually making a law,” McConnell said. “But if other proposals are to be considered, our colleagues will have to actually introduce their own amendments rather than just talk about them.”

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