A member of the Senate’s Republican leadership acknowledged Thursday that the party may not be able to tackle some of the President’s key immigration priorities by a March 5 deadline.
Instead, the Senate’s No. 3 Republican John Thune told reporters he sees an opportunity to cut a more narrow deal that includes border security in exchange for some kind of protection for recipients of the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.
“My own view is, and I’m only speaking for myself here, I think that if we can solve DACA and border security that may be the best we can hope for,” Thune said.
Hours later, President Donald Trump called again on Congress to consider his broader framework – which would give roughly 1.8 million individuals eligible for DACA a path to citizenship in exchange for $25 billion in border security and an overhaul of the country’s legal immigration system.
“I know that the Senate is planning to bring an immigration bill to the floor in coming weeks and I’m asking that the framework we submitted – with great flexibility,” Trump said. “Great flexibility working with both parties – that something very positive will come out of it for our country.”
Democrats have blasted Trump’s plan and have explicitly rejected his proposals to curb so-called chain migration, but on Thursday, Trump said that Democrats can choose to follow his lead or risk getting nothing at all.
“We will either have something that is fair and equitable and good and secure or we’re going to have nothing at all.”
Thune warned reporters that the path ahead on immigration is still unclear. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to bring an immigration debate on the floor of the Senate after a February 8 spending deadline, but there is still no indication of what the immigration proposal would look like. A group of Republican and Democratic whips in the House and Senate have failed to find any way forward on the proposal and are deeply divided over the scope of any potential deal.
“Senator McConnell has indicated, and I’ve heard him in conversations with (Senate Minority Leader Chuck) Schumer the other night before the State of the Union on moving forward with a debate on immigration in the Senate, so what that base bill looks like or how that debate ensues from there and what the amendment process of that bill when it’s all said and done remains to be seen, but I do think that it’s a priority to deal with the issue,” Thune said.
Conservatives quickly rebuffed Thune’s suggestion.
“Senator Thune represents a state that’s a long ways from the southern border, and so making a suggestion that a two-pillar answer is going to get support in the House is a non-starter,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman and North Carolinian Mark Meadows told reporters when asked about South Dakotan Thune’s comments.
Thune’s comments come after the Trump administration laid out a plan to give roughly 1.8 million individuals eligible for DACA a path to citizenship in exchange for $25 billion in border security and an overhaul of the country’s legal immigration system. But tackling so-called chain migration or what Democrats refer to as family reunification is proving difficult on Capitol Hill. Democrats have called Trump’s plan on chain migration untenable and unfair while others in GOP leadership have said they don’t imagine giving DACA recipients a path to citizenship without it.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, the number two House Democrat who is part of the group of four House and Senate leaders negotiating on a possible immigration deal, told reporters Tuesday that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy wanted to add a discussion about the chain migration and the diversity lottery, but Democrats never agreed they would be part of any final deal.
“McCarthy put those on the list in that way,” Hoyer said, recounting a discussion about various issues at a White House meeting, with a large group. He added, the response from Democrats was “OK, those are on your list, and we will talk about them. But there was no agreement that that was the agenda. There was no agreement that that would exclude everything else.”
A group of roughly 20 bipartisan lawmakers in the Senate has also indicated that their preference would be to scale back any immigration bill to border security and DACA despite Trump’s insistence that the “four pillars.”
“What gives us the highest chance of success is to have a base bill that everybody agrees on, and then add things to it as opposed to having a broad bill that then you are fighting to all the time to take things out of,” Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said.
Thune acknowledged that the base bill and what’s included is still not determined.
“There are obviously disagreements, sure, about what it ought to include,” Thune said. “I think that the key is going to be figuring out something that can not only get 60 votes in the Senate but pass the House of Representatives and be something that the President will sign into law. And that will be a difficult needle to thread.”
CNN’s Bonney Kapp contributed to this report.