McConnell tees up immigration debate
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWarren on family separation policy: Trump is ‘taking America to a dark and ugly place’ Senate GOP tries to defuse Trump border crisis Schumer rejects GOP proposal to address border crisis 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 CornynGOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border Senate GOP tries to defuse Trump border crisis Dem plays audio from child detention center on Senate floor MORE (R-Texas) and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinLive coverage: FBI chief, Justice IG testify on critical report Hugh Hewitt to Trump: 'It is 100 percent wrong to separate border-crossing families' Opioid treatment plans must include a trauma-informed approach MORE (D-Ill.) and Reps. Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHouse GOP headed for showdown with DOJ over key documents The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Outcry raises pressure on GOP for immigration fix Hillicon Valley: Trump hits China with massive tech tariffs | Facebook meets with GOP leaders over bias allegations | Judge sends Manafort to jail ahead of trial | AT&T completes Time Warner purchase MORE (R-Calif.) and Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerTrump vows to stand with House GOP '1,000 percent' on immigration Hoyer: GOP centrists 'sold out' Dreamers Pelosi, Dems hammer GOP for ‘derailing’ DACA debate 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.