The Senate is inching forward with debate on a deal to codify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and increase border security.
WASHINGTON — Congress is advancing on a plan to address both border security and the unauthorized immigrants benefitting from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as part of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's commitment several weeks ago that ended the federal government shutdown.
But Republicans and Democrats in the Senate remain fiercely divided on the kind of bill they would be willing to vote for — on top of whether President Donald Trump would sign the final product.
McConnell began Tuesday by begging Democrats to move forward with the amendment process to a shell bill now on the Senate floor. McConnell also stressed that any immigration fix had to come by call of business Thursday when Congress departs for a weeklong recess.
"Look, this is an issue we've been talking about literally for years," McConnell told reporters. "Something passed the Senate in 2013, we spent three months talking to the Democrats about this. There's no reason in the world why if there is a core 60 votes to support something, we can't achieve it in the next few days. So that's the timetable."
But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer signaled he was not on board with McConnell's plea for Democrats to start offering amendments that would each receive a fair shake on the floor. Rather, Schumer wants the Senate to vote on two separate bills — one based on Trump's outline of immigration principles issued last month, and the other on the text of the compromise deal between Sens. John McCain and Chris Coons.
Schumer acknowledged that neither proposal would pass a 60-vote threshold, but he said it would give senators a better idea of the kind of compromises that could be made.
"That will tell us sort of the bounds," Schumer said in a press conference. "I don’t think either of them will get large bipartisan support, but it will give us an idea of the parameters and can set us moving."
Some Republicans have already drawn lines in the sand over certain proposals, which could make the push to get 60 votes in favor of a bill that much harder.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas told reporters he had no intention of backing a plan that provided a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients — who next month are set to lose the protections allowing them to work in the US — and that nothing being considered so far would satisfy him.
"I do not believe we should be granting citizenship to people here illegally," Cruz said. "Right now there are a variety of amnesty proposals circulating, all of which I think are a bad idea."
In addition, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona is at odds with the White House on curbs to legal immigration levels. MSNBC reported on Monday that Flake would be a hard "no" on any bill with such a proposal.
Schumer sidestepped McConnell's end-of-week timetable, telling reporters that "we're gonna keep fighting in every way we can."
"But right now our focus is getting to 60," Schumer added. "That's gonna take a lot of push and pull, a lot of compromise. No one is gonna get everything they want. That's how we work around here."
But Republicans suggested there was a real danger in failing to come up with a solution this week.
"We can't lose sight of the fact that even though the court case has allowed DACA eligible persons to go back and reapply, there's a real deadline out there everybody should be mindful of," Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina told Business Insider.
"If there's no deal by the end of the week, I think that leaves the DACA recipients in some jeopardy," Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn added.