Trump hits the brakes on Senate immigration deal

A bipartisan group of senators says they have clinched a deal to provide protections to young immigrants known as Dreamers, but are facing pushback from 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 and GOP leadership.

Sens. 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.) and 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.) said Thursday the group of six senators has locked down an agreement amongst themselves on pairing a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program with a border security package. 

"We've got this bipartisan group. We are at a deal. ... It's the only game in town," Flake told reporters.

But Durbin and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamQuestions mount over Trump-Putin discussions The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia Overnight Defense: Trump inviting Putin to DC | Senate to vote Monday on VA pick | Graham open to US-Russia military coordination in Syria MORE (R-S.C.) were told during a Thursday meeting with President Trump at the White House that he was not ready to sign on to the bill.

"We were hoping for that, but the president is not prepared to do that at this moment," Durbin said when asked if they wanted the president's support before they moved forward with their agreement.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, during a press briefing, said, "There has not been a deal reached yet. However, we still think we can get there and we are very focused on trying to make sure that happens."

The group of senators holding the talks — which also includes Democratic Sens. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetHarley stunner spikes tension with Trump over trade policy Races to watch in Tuesday’s primaries Democrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor MORE (Colo.) and Bob Menendez (N.J.) and Republican Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerMcConnell calls for Senate hearings on Russia sanctions GOP seeks separation from Trump on Russia Republican bill aims to deter NATO members from using Russian pipeline MORE (Colo.) — has been negotiating for months on a deal that would include a fix for DACA.

Their bill is expected to include legalization for DACA recipients, known as Dreamers, as well as a border security package and changes to the State Department's diversity visa lottery program and family-based immigration policies.

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Those four parameters are in line with what Trump and lawmakers agreed to during a White House meeting earlier this week.

The six senators said in a joint statement Thursday afternoon they have reached an agreement, which would include a path to citizenship.

"President Trump called on Congress to solve the DACA challenge. ... We are now working to build support for that deal in Congress," they said.

Durbin said the bill would include a pathway to citizenship not only for current DACA recipients, but other immigrants in the country illegally who would qualify for the program. 
 
Meanwhile, Flake indicated that any changes to family-based immigration would be narrowly focused to the current DACA population and their family members, and not apply, as some Republicans want, to the entire immigration population. 
 
Flake also said senators had discussed reallocating some of the State Department's diversity lottery visas to people who have Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a program the Trump administration has been scaling back. 
 
Both Flake and Durbin have declined to discuss specific border security numbers. But Durbin indicated Wednesday night that the border security package would include funding for fencing and barriers, but also technology. 

Durbin confirmed that he believed the group has an agreement and they are "working to get support from the other senators, on both sides of the aisle, and we won't be releasing draft or final version at least through the weekend."

Flake added that members of the working group will try to line up more co-sponsors before releasing details of their deal.

"We're shopping it among our colleagues," he said. "We got a few others already said they'll sign on and we're working on others before we release details of it."

Staffers for Durbin, Sen. 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 (R-Texas) and Reps. 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 Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHouse leaders clash over resolution backing ICE House backs resolution expressing support for ICE House GOP reverses, cancels vote on Dem bill to abolish ICE MORE (R-Calif.) are expected to meet Thursday as part of separate discussions to figure out a path forward.

"Kevin McCarthy asked for a chance to move forward. ... We'll work with him to see what we can achieve," Durbin said.

Still, the White House suggested the emerging Senate agreement was not something Trump would accept, even though the president on Tuesday suggested he would sign whatever immigration bill lawmakers sent to his desk.

Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, said the president has not signed on to the agreement and that there is a "long ways to go."

He added that the White House is "not looking for DACA to be the DREAM Act" — referring to the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act that provides a path to citizenship.

Short added the president wants changes to "chain migration" to go broader than just impacting the DACA population, a potential hurdle from the bipartisan Senate group's deal.

"I think we're pleased that bipartisan members are talking ... but I still think there's a ways to go," he said.

GOP Sens. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonBipartisan group introduces retirement savings legislation in Senate Overnight Defense: Fallout from tense NATO summit | Senators push to block ZTE deal in defense bill | Blackwater founder makes new pitch for mercenaries to run Afghan war Hillicon Valley: DOJ appeals AT&T-Time Warner ruling | FBI agent testifies in heated hearing | Uproar after FCC changes rules on consumer complaints | Broadcom makes bid for another US company | Facebook under fire over conspiracy sites MORE (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.), McCarthy and Rep. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteWill Congress ever hold our federal agencies accountable for contempt? Lots of love: Charity tennis match features lawmakers teaming up across the aisle Dems try to end hearing on bias against conservatives in tech MORE (R-Va.) — who have not been part of the bipartisan Senate talks — were also part of Thursday's White House meeting.

Cornyn said a message had been delivered that the bipartisan group would not be able to single-handedly decide what the final DACA agreement is.

"I think what the president told them is its fine for them to negotiate ... but what they need to do is share that with others so it will have broad enough support to actually get passed," he said.

The Trump administration announced last year that they were ending the DACA program, giving Congress a March deadline to codify the Obama-era program into law.

Both sides have appeared sympathetic to DACA recipients, but Congress has struggled to come up with a broad agreement that could win enough support to overcome likely pushback from conservatives as well as progressive Democrats.

Goodlatte was part of a group of House Republicans who introduced their own proposal this week, but that bill is unlikely to be able to win over enough support to pass the Senate.

 

- Alex Bolton contributed

Updated at 4:24 p.m.