Senate GOP hedges on immigration vote

HERSHEY, Pa. — Senate Republican leaders are not committing to a vote on legislation passed by the House that would block President Obama from easing the deportations of illegal immigrants.

Sen. John ThuneJohn ThuneWhat will be in Obama’s Presidential Library GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election Republicans question FCC watchdog's 'independence' MORE (S.D.), the third-ranking member of Senate Republican leadership, declined to say Thursday whether the House bill funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would be brought to the Senate floor.

“I don’t want at this point to say what [Senate] Leader [Mitch] McConnell [R-Ky.] might ultimately decide to do. That’s a discussion we’re having as a conference.

“Obviously we want to give our members an opportunity to vote to express their opposition to the president’s action, but we also realize, at the end of the day, in the Senate, it’s going to take 60 votes,” Thune said at a joint retreat for House and Senate Republicans at the Hershey Lodge.

GOP lawmakers are discussing their next steps on the House bill, which centrists in the upper chamber have met with skepticism.

One of the most controversial elements is a provision that would halt Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program launched in 2012 that provides work permits to illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children.

Twenty-six House Republicans voted against that amendment to the bill, and it is unclear whether the proposal can win enough support in the Senate to pass.

The House legislation would also defund Obama’s executive order from November, which expanded the freeze on deportations to cover up to 5 million immigrants.

Thune stressed that Senate and House Republicans share the same goals when it comes to reversing Obama’s executive actions.

“We think that the president overstepped his authority, acted in an unlawful way,” he said, noting that the president initially claimed he did not have executive authority to stop deportations.

Thune said whatever passes the Senate needs to win over at least six Democrats to pass the 60-vote hurdle needed to stop an expected Democratic filibuster.

Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidObama seeks down-ballot gains after being midterm loser Reid: 'I have set the Senate' for nuclear option Obama in Nevada: 'Heck no' to Trump, Joe Heck MORE (D-Nev.) has declared the DHS bill dead on arrival, signaling his caucus will reject it.

When asked if the House bill could pass the Senate, Thune said, “good question.”

Sen. Rob PortmanRob PortmanVulnerable House freshmen passed most bills in decades, analysis finds Republican opposition to raising the minimum wage Is crumbling Trump: 'Very disappointed' GOP senator dropped support MORE (R), who faces reelection in the swing state of Ohio next year, said he wants to hear from House colleagues before weighing in on the fate of the $40 billion Department of Homeland Security appropriations measure.

“After lunch, we’re going to have that specific discussion. I want to hear from the House,” he said. “I’m not yet sure where we’re going to end up on that.”

Portman said senators are very concerned about Obama’s executive actions on immigration, but he also said it is critical for Congress to fund the nation’s security infrastructure, especially given news that the FBI has arrested an Ohio man for allegedly plotting an attack on the Capitol.

“I think that’s very important that we realize that we do face a threat here in the homeland. I’m even more acutely aware of it having had this jihadist from my hometown of Cincinnati arrested yesterday,” he said.

Senators and House lawmakers will discuss immigration and border security at a session scheduled for the end of the day.

Sen. Mark KirkMark KirkGreat Lakes senators seek boost for maritime system GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election Iran sending ships to Yemeni coast after US ship fires at Houthi sites MORE (R-Ill.), one of the Senate’s most vulnerable incumbents, said earlier this week that he was worried about ensuring that the DHS remains funded.

“In general, I want to make sure we run the government and a key part of government is homeland security, especially what happened in France,” he said Monday. “In the end, cooler heads should prevail, and we shouldn’t defund critical security infrastructure.”