Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Frustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' New Yorker cover titled 'The Shining' shows Graham, McConnell, Barr polishing Trump's shoes MORE (R-Ky.) on Wednesday said he will not use an immigration bill as the starting point for the Senate's debate on the issue.

"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.

The GOP leader's comments are the first signal he's given about what legislation he will, or will not, use as the Senate's "base" bill, expected to be used as a vehicle for the immigration debate.

ADVERTISEMENT

He added on Wednesday that senators from both sides would be able to "alternate proposals for consideration and for votes."

"While I obviously cannot guarantee any outcome, let alone supermajority support, I can ensure the process is fair to all sides, and that is what I intend to do," he said.

McConnell is expected to tee up the Senate's base legislation this week once the chamber passes an agreement to fund the government and raise the budget caps. The move could pave the way for a free-wheeling debate on the Senate floor next week.

The announcement comes as senators are struggling to reach an agreement to prevent a heated debate on immigration, a political lightning rod for both parties' bases.

The No. 2's group — consisting of Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinThreat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Senate Democrats request watchdog, Red Cross probe DHS detention facilities Iraq War looms over Trump battle with Iran MORE (D-Ill.) and John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Bipartisan House bill calls for strategy to protect 5G networks from foreign threats Collins offering bill to boost battery research as GOP pushes energy 'innovation' MORE (R-Texas) and Reps. Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyRepublicans spend more than million at Trump properties The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi fires back in feud with Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes MORE (R-Calif.) and Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerSteyer plans impeachment push targeting Democrats over recess The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push Pelosi faces tipping point on Trump impeachment MORE (D-Md.) — have 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.

A group of centrists is eyeing a narrow deal that would just include a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and border security.

But President TrumpDonald John TrumpNASA exec leading moon mission quits weeks after appointment The Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Frustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' MORE shot down a scaled-back bill from Sens. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsOil companies join blitz for carbon tax Mnuchin says carbon capture tax credit guidance will be out soon Mnuchin signals administration won't comply with subpoena for Trump tax returns MORE (D-Del.) and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain on Pelosi-Trump feud: 'Put this crap aside' and 'work together for America' Meghan McCain says Ben Carson should be developing brain cancer treatment, not working at HUD Graham urges Trump not to abandon infrastructure talks with Democrats MORE (R-Ariz.) because it didn't include funding for a border wall.

Any proposal will need 60 votes, meaning the support of both Democrats and Republicans, to pass the Senate.

McConnell's announcement comes after he said on Tuesday that he didn't have a "secret plan" for the upcoming immigration debate.

“I’m going to structure in such a way that’s fair to everyone. ... Whoever gets to 60 wins,” he said during a press conference.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerNo agreement on budget caps in sight ahead of Memorial Day recess Ex-White House photographer roasts Trump: 'This is what a cover up looked like' under Obama Pelosi: Trump 'is engaged in a cover-up' MORE (D-N.Y.) said on Wednesday that Ryan should "do what Senator McConnell has agreed to do, allow a fair and open process to debate a dreamers bill on the House floor." 

Updated at 1:40 p.m.