GOP senators turning Trump immigration framework into legislation

GOP senators turning Trump immigration framework into legislation
© Greg Nash

A group of GOP senators is working to translate President TrumpDonald John TrumpEx-ethics chief calls on Trump to end 'monstrous' migrant policies Laura Bush blasts Trump migrant policy as 'cruel' and 'immoral' US denies report of coalition airstrike on Syria MORE's immigration framework into legislation as the chamber barrels toward a floor fight with no deal in sight.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynMcConnell: Mueller 'ought to wrap it up' Senate rejects effort to boost Congress's national security oversight Graham jokes about Corker: GOP would have to be organized to be a cult MORE (R-Texas) said Republican senators — led by Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyPruitt’s new problem with the GOP: Ethanol Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Dems see midterm advantage in new ObamaCare fight Senate Judiciary urges response to sexual harassment in federal courts MORE (Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee — are working to write a bill based on the White House's proposal.

"That's what the discussion is," Cornyn told The Hill after a meeting with Grassley and other GOP senators, including Sens. David Perdue (Ga.) and James LankfordJames Paul LankfordHillicon Valley: Net neutrality ends | What repeal means and what's next | Treasury sanctions Russian firms for aiding cyberattacks | How trolling became diplomacy's new trend | Feds crack down on email scams | Defense bill cyber update This week: Congress faces what could be biggest news week of 2018 Hillicon Valley: Mueller hits Manafort with more charges | DOJ targets NYT reporter in leak probe | Chinese hacker steals sensitive data from Navy contractor | House votes against reviving tech office MORE (Okla.), when asked if they were drafting legislation.

Cornyn didn't specifically rule out changes to the framework as the senators create the legislation, but said they aren't going to "negotiate against ourselves."

Spokespeople for Grassley didn't respond to a request for comment.

It's unclear if senators will formally introduce the legislation as a stand-alone measure and offer it during next week's immigration debate.

Lankford also confirmed that the group is drafting legislation based on Trump's outline. That framework would give citizenship to roughly 1.8 million immigrants brought into the country illegally as children in exchange for tens of billions of dollars in border wall and security funding, and sweeping changes to legal immigration.

But it's been widely panned by Democrats, as well as some GOP senators who are wary of making changes to legal immigration as part of a deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Lankford appeared to signal that he had talked with Democrats as the immigration proposal is being drafted.

"I've had all kinds of conversations with Democrats saying, what changes would you need," he said.

But Lankford added that both sides are digging in, rather than trying to close the gap.

Cornyn, when asked about making changes to accommodate Democrats, also suggested there has been little headway.

"They seem to have this illusion that all they need to do is deal with about half of it," he said.

It's unclear which Democrats have been involved in discussions. Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinManchin touts support for Trump border wall in new ad Dems seek to leverage ObamaCare fight for midterms White House was in talks with Manchin to lead Veterans Affairs: report MORE (D-W.Va.), who is part of a bipartisan group led by Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDHS secretary defends Trump administration's migrant policies White House faces growing outcry over migrant family policies GOP senators push for clarification on migrant family separations MORE (R-Maine), said he hasn't talked to Cornyn or Grassley about turning the administration's framework into legislation.

Senators from both parties have floated a scaled-back bill that would link a fix for DACA to a border security package.

But the White House has shot down a proposal from Sens. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsHillicon 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 Dem senator: Trump Jr. may have given 'false testimony' about meeting with foreign nationals Overnight Finance: House sends Dodd-Frank rollbacks to Trump | What's in the bill | Trump says there is 'no deal' to help ZTE | Panel approves bill to toughen foreign investment reviews MORE (D-Del.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP senator: Family separation policy 'inconsistent' with American values Trump’s trusted diplomat faces daunting task with North Korea Trump’s danger on North Korea? Raised expectations MORE (R-S.C.), which did not include funding for Trump's border wall.

The stalemate comes as the Senate could turn to a fight over immigration in a matter of days.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCongress had a good couple of weeks — now let's keep it going McCarthy: 'The Mueller investigation has got to stop' McConnell: Mueller 'ought to wrap it up' MORE (R-Ky.) has promised he will start a debate if a larger deal isn't reached by Thursday. But he's given no indication about what bill he will use as the Senate's starting point.