- Senate leaders reached a deal to take up an immigration bill that would address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and border security in order to reopen the government on Monday.
- Senate Republicans and Democrats want to move forward with a bipartisan immigration plan in the next few weeks.
- House Republicans are coalescing around a much more conservative option, without showing any signs of compromise.
WASHINGTON – When Senate leaders from both parties struck a deal to end the government shutdown, there was a glimmer of hope that a bipartisan immigration bill to address both border security issues and the soon-expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would be moving forward.
But House Republicans, the White House, and the Senate appear to all be on different wavelengths, which could lead to an impasse over the issue in the coming weeks.
The White House has already dismissed an immigration proposal under the framework of the plan put forth by Republican Sens. Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham, alongside Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin.
“The Graham-Durbin proposal is not a proposal the President can sign,” said White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah shortly after the Senate voted to reopen the government on Monday.
Graham told reporters on Tuesday that their original group would be scrapped in favour of a larger, bipartisan coalition.
“The gang of six is gonna be replaced by the gang of 70,” Graham said. “So what we’re trying to do is find a way to get all these bipartisan ideas, which are overflowing, into a system that can get a result.”
And for border security provisions, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer withdrew his offer to President Donald Trump for a compromise that would include funding of the border wall. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, who is among the lawmakers leading the negotiations, called that a big mistake.
“They are obsessed with that topic but it is clearly part of a system of border security infrastructure that everybody agrees is necessary,” Cornyn told reporters on Tuesday. “So I thought it was interesting that Senator Schumer now has retracted his offer and I presume along with his offer of $US25 billion to pay for it.”
“If [Schumer] wants a solution, that’s a step backward,” Cornyn added.
House Republicans are already coalescing around a more conservative immigration bill
To complicate matters, House Republicans have already begun to unify around a more hardline immigration plan put forth by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul.
The conservative House Freedom Caucus secured assurances from Republican leaders to whip the Goodlatte McCaul bill in exchange for their vote on the spending bill last week. Further, Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said he and his colleagues are firm in their belief that bills such as these should originate in the House, potentially souring any progress made in the Senate.
“We believe that you need to start in the House and it has been my position consistently, you start in the House with the most conservative bill, you send it to the Senate, it gets moderated in the Senate, and then comes back,” Meadows told reporters Sunday night. “And perhaps a bill that I vote on to start the process in the House is not one I vote for in final passage, but it’s the way that it’s supposed to work.”
On Tuesday, the 154-member Republican Study Committee joined in on supporting the same bill.
“The Securing America’s Future Act is the framework to strengthen border security, increase interior enforcement and resolve the DACA situation,” leaders of the RSC said in a statement. “We believe an eventual stand alone floor vote is essential. We oppose any process for a DACA solution that favours a backroom deal with Democrats over regular order in the House.”
The Goodlatte-McCaul bill funds Trump’s long-desired wall along the US-Mexico border and authorizes beefing up personnel with 5,000 additional border patrol officers and 5,000 new customs agents. The bill does not offer a pathway to citizenship, instead giving recipients of the DACA program – which protects about 700,000 young unauthorised immigrants from deportation – renewable legal status for periods of three years, excluding convicted criminals.
The House bill represents a direct contrast to sentiments from top immigration negotiators in the Senate who favour a less conservative path.
“Partisan ideas are probably not gonna make it,” Graham said. “Bipartisan ideas need to be looked at and we’ll see where the market goes.”
The bottom line: If each chamber continue on their separate paths and the White House remains opposed to any pathway to citizenship, the various immigration reform plans could simply die in their respective chambers.
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