McConnell tees up immigration debate
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers feel pressure on guns Bipartisan group of House lawmakers urge action on Export-Import Bank nominees Curbelo Dem rival lashes out over immigration failure MORE (R-Ky.) is turning attention in the Senate toward a fight over immigration.

The GOP leader early Friday morning teed up a House-passed shell bill being used as the vehicle for the Senate's debate. A procedural vote on taking up the House legislation is expected on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

McConnell said earlier this week that he would use a non-immigration bill as the base for the debate, essentially letting the Senate start from scratch.

"The bill I move to, which will not have underlying immigration text, will have an amendment process that will ensure a level playing field at the outset," McConnell said from the Senate floor, announcing his plans.

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The free-wheeling debate is expected to take up the Senate's entire schedule next week as lawmakers struggle to reach a deal that could get 60 votes.

The group of No. 2 Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate — consisting of Sens. John CornynJohn CornynLawmakers feel pressure on guns Kasich’s campaign website tones down gun language after Florida shooting Murphy: Trump’s support for background check bill shows gun politics ‘shifting rapidly’ MORE (R-Texas) and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinAmerica’s waning commitment to the promise of the First Amendment Senate rejects Trump immigration plan What to watch for in the Senate immigration votes MORE (D-Ill.) and Reps. Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTrump talk riles advocates on both sides of gas tax House GOP pushes hard-line immigration plan as Senate deals fail Speculation swirls about Kevin McCarthy’s future MORE (R-Calif.) and Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerCongress punts fight over Dreamers to March Calls mount from Dems to give platform to Trump accusers  Citing deficits, House GOP to take aim at entitlements MORE (D-Md.) — has failed to get a broad agreement favored by the White House.

Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, told reporters earlier this week that the administration wanted its framework to be the Senate's starting point.

That proposal would have offered a path to citizenship to roughly 1.8 million immigrants in exchange for tens of billions in border security and changes to legal immigration.

But it was panned by Democrats and some Republicans over concerns about cuts to legal immigration and limits on family-based immigration.

The Trump administration announced last year that it was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, kicking the fight to Congress.

Lawmakers have until March 5 to pass a legislative fix or risk the deportation of roughly 700,000 immigrants brought into the country illegally as children.

McConnell announced that he was teeing up the immigration debate after the Senate voted early Friday morning to pass a budget deal with a stopgap measure that, if passed by the House, would allow the government to reopen and be funded through March 23.