This week: Senate turns toward immigration battle
© Getty Images

The much-anticipated Senate floor debate over immigration will commence this week on the heels of Friday's brief government shutdown.

Senators are expected to vote Monday at 5:30 p.m. on an initial immigration hurdle — agreeing to end debate on taking up a House-passed “shell” bill.

The Senate is turning its focus to the immigration debate, where both sides are under pressure from their base to draw a hard line, as part of a promise made by Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSunk judicial pick spills over into Supreme Court fight Hillicon Valley: Trump's Russia moves demoralize his team | Congress drops effort to block ZTE deal | Rosenstein warns of foreign influence threat | AT&T's latest 5G plans On The Money: Trump 'ready' for tariffs on all 0B in Chinese goods | Trump digs in on Fed criticism | Lawmakers drop plans to challenge Trump ZTE deal MORE (R-Ky.) to end a three-day government shutdown in January.

But lawmakers have yet to find an agreement that can win over the 60 votes needed to clear the chamber. And there’s no guarantee the more conservative House or President TrumpDonald John TrumpWSJ: Trump ignored advice to confront Putin over indictments Trump hotel charging Sean Spicer ,000 as book party venue Bernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin MORE will back any plan ultimately passed by the Senate.

McConnell, who pledged to make the immigration process “fair to both sides," said last week that he didn’t have a “secret plan” to impact the ultimate outcome by tilting the debate in one direction.

"While I obviously cannot guarantee any outcome, let alone supermajority support, I can ensure the process is fair to all sides, and that is what I intend to do," he said during a separate appearance on the Senate floor.

Senators are expected to offer their competing proposals as amendments to the House bill. How many will end up getting votes or how long the debate will last is unclear, though both GOP Sens. John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia Senate GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit Senators push to clear backlog in testing rape kits MORE (Texas) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHillicon Valley: Trump's Russia moves demoralize his team | Congress drops effort to block ZTE deal | Rosenstein warns of foreign influence threat | AT&T's latest 5G plans On The Money: Trump 'ready' for tariffs on all 0B in Chinese goods | Trump digs in on Fed criticism | Lawmakers drop plans to challenge Trump ZTE deal Overnight Defense: White House 'not considering' Ukraine referendum | Pompeo hopeful on plans for Putin visit | Measure to block ZTE deal dropped from defense bill MORE (Fla.) signaled it could last weeks.

A spokesman for McConnell declined to comment Friday on how long the immigration bill will stay on floor, noting he couldn’t speculate with any certainty about a debate that hadn’t yet started.

Despite the looming floor fight, senators are still locking down what they will offer.

A group of GOP senators is expected to offer Trump’s framework as an amendment, though Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate approves resolution warning Trump not to hand over US officials Deal to fix family separations hits snag in the Senate Senate Democrats block resolution supporting ICE MORE (D-Ill.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia Senate GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit Senate approves resolution warning Trump not to hand over US officials MORE (R-Ariz.) have both predicted it won’t get 60 votes.

The proposal would grant 1.8 million immigrants brought into the country illegally as children a path to citizenship in exchange for tens of billions in border security and changes to legal immigration.

Democrats, and some Republicans, have panned the measure as being too restrictive. Conservatives, on the other hand, including Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingHillicon Valley: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | Sparks fly at hearing on social media | First House Republican backs net neutrality bill | Meet the DNC's cyber guru | Sinclair defiant after merger setback Sparks fly at hearing on anti-conservative bias in tech The farm bill fails animals in need MORE (R-Iowa) and outlets such as Breitbart News, blasted the plan as “amnesty.”

Trump has emerged as a wild card in the months-long immigration fight.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerData confirm that marijuana decriminalization is long overdue Pollster: Kavanaugh will get Dem votes Democrats slam Trump for considering Putin’s ’absurd’ request to question Americans MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiTop Ethics Dem calls for Nielsen to resign Dems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia GOP looks to blunt Dems’ attacks on rising premiums MORE (D-Calif.) said last year that they had an agreement to focus any deal on a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and border security, only for the framework agreement to unravel.

Trump also told lawmakers during a televised White House meeting in January  that he would sign whatever they sent him. But two days later he blew a hole in the talks by shooting down a bipartisan “Gang of Six” bill and reportedly referring to several developing nations as “shithole” countries.

Flake said he thought the president wanted to help DACA recipients, but also responded to pressure from the party’s base.

“The president expressed that several months ago after the ‘Chuck and Nancy’ meeting ... [He] flatly said to us, ‘you know, I had a meeting with Chuck and Nancy but then the base went crazy,’ he said. ...So this is a tough issue,” Flake told reporters.

Flake is one of roughly 20 senators, led by GOP Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Russia furor grips Washington Overnight Health Care: Novartis pulls back on drug price hikes | House Dems launch Medicare for All caucus | Trump officials pushing ahead on Medicaid work requirements Senate panel to vote next week on banning 'gag clauses' in pharmacy contracts MORE (Maine), who have been negotiating for weeks to try to come up with an agreement.

Those talks have largely focused on finding a DACA fix paired with a border security package, though senators are debating how to give the administration the long-term funding it wants while still letting Congress have oversight of money.

“It’s just hard to construct a trigger. There’s a lot of different ideas, but I don’t think there’s anything close to a consensus,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said, asked about including the fail-safe for the border security provisions.

Congress has a matter of weeks to come up with a fix for DACA, which allows immigrants brought into the country illegally as children to work and go to school, under the Trump administration’s original March 5 deadline.

A court ruling that requires the program to stay on the books while litigation plays out has thrown a curveball into that timeline, though lawmakers are pushing forward by noting the decision could be overturned.

But it’s far from clear that any bill that passes the Senate would get taken up in the House.

House Democrats were unsuccessful in securing a similar commitment from Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanInterior fast tracks study of drilling's Arctic impact: report Dems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia National Dems make play in Ohio special election MORE (R-Wis.) to allow open-ended debate in the lower chamber on immigration to protect DACA recipents.

Pelosi, Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia House leaders clash over resolution backing ICE Hoyer calls on GOP to bring up election security amendment MORE (D-Md.) and Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) are suggesting GOP leaders allow a rarely used procedure, known as “queen of the hill,” that allows votes on multiple competing proposals. Whichever gets the most votes is considered as adopted.

But Ryan has, so far, rebuffed their overtures.

He is saying only that he’s “committed” to making sure the DACA issue is resolved, but stopped short of saying he’d allow a vote on any bipartisan proposal even if it doesn’t have Trump’s support.

“My commitment to working together on an immigration measure that we can make law is a sincere commitment. We will solve this DACA problem,” Ryan said.

That’s why most Democrats voted against the bipartisan two-year budget deal last week that also keeps the government funded through March 23.

With both chambers far apart on a potential agreement, some senators are also working on a temporary fix, or a “Plan Z.”

Flake told reporters he has prepared the fail-safe in case the Senate's negotiations fall apart on the floor. His proposal would provide roughly three years of protected status for DACA recipients and border security.

Disability rights, financial services

The House is only expected to be in session for a slightly shortened work week before the President's Day recess.

One measure expected to be considered on the House floor this week would require the Justice Department to create a program for educating state and local governments and property owners how to better establish public accommodations for people with disabilities.

It would prevent people from filing lawsuits alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act unless business owners are provided written notice and fail to offer a written description describing improvements.

But the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) warned that the legislation would “place the burden” on people with disabilities who are denied access to public spaces, rather than the businesses that aren’t complying with the law.

“Business owners can spend years out of compliance and face no penalty even after they receive notice, so long as the owners claim “substantial progress,’” the ACLU said.

The House is also expected to consider legislation to ensure that the interest rate on certain loans remains the same even if it is transferred to a third party.