McConnell tees up immigration debate
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRand Paul blocking Trump counterterrorism nominee On The Money: Trump, Senate leaders to huddle on border wall funding | Fed bank regulator walks tightrope on Dodd-Frank | Koch-backed groups blast incentives for corporations after Amazon deal Congress is going to make marijuana moves 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 CornynTrump throws support behind criminal justice bill McConnell reelected as leader, Thune promoted to whip This week: Congress starts lame-duck with leadership fight MORE (R-Texas) and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinTrump throws support behind criminal justice bill Schumer reelected as Senate Democratic Leader Criminal justice reform faces a make-or-break moment MORE (D-Ill.) and Reps. Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyJordan on leadership loss: 'We knew it was an uphill fight' McCarthy defeats Jordan for minority leader in 159-to-43 vote The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Leadership elections in Congress | Freshman lawmakers arrive | Trump argues he can restrict reporter access MORE (R-Calif.) and Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerPelosi and her opponents voice confidence over Speakership battle Clyburn says some critics are using race to oppose his leadership bid New hurdle arises in Pelosi’s march to Speakership 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.