McConnell tees up immigration debate
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP scrambles to fend off Kobach in Kansas primary Meadows: Election will be held on November third Don't let Trump distract us from the real threat of his presidency 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 CornynFrustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal Chamber of Commerce endorses Ernst for reelection Mini-exodus of Trump officials from Commerce to lobby on semiconductors MORE (R-Texas) and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinThe Hill's Campaign Report: Who will Biden pick to be his running mate? Don't count out Duckworth in Biden VP race Schumer: Trump should want COVID-19 deal to help GOP election chances MORE (D-Ill.) and Reps. Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyDon't let Trump distract us from the real threat of his presidency Overnight Health Care: Five takeaways from Fauci's testimony | CDC: Children might play 'important role' in spreading COVID-19 | GOP leader wants rapid testing at Capitol GOP leader wants to make rapid testing available at Capitol MORE (R-Calif.) and Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Fauci gives his COVID-19 vaccine estimate Congress rightfully rejects dangerous effort to cut defense budget by 10 percent GOP hunts for 'Plan B' as coronavirus talks hit wall 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.