Three-year DACA, border security deal blocked in Senate
© Greg Nash

A temporary extension of a key Obama-era immigration program was blocked Tuesday in the Senate as lawmakers struggle to break a stalemate.

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger MORE (R-Ariz.) tried to pass legislation that would extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for three years while providing $7.6 billion in border security funding.

Flake said his proposal would be a "stopgap" to try to give Congress more time to work on a long-term solution for immigrants in the country after three larger proposals were rejected by the Senate last month. 

"To put it as bluntly as possible, this is simply not something we can ignore any longer. ... We cannot completely abdicate the responsibility of Congress," Flake said.


But GOP Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordHarris on election security: 'Russia can't hack a piece of paper' GOP advances rules change to speed up confirmation of Trump nominees GOP senator calls Omar's apology 'entirely appropriate' MORE (Okla.) objected to Flake's legislation, arguing he wanted a permanent fix for DACA recipients — immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children.

Lankford asked Flake to modify his request so the Senate would instead pass GOP legislation, spearheaded by Republican Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Drug pricing fight centers on insulin | Florida governor working with Trump to import cheaper drugs | Dems blast proposed ObamaCare changes Drug pricing fight centers on insulin On The Money: Smaller tax refunds put GOP on defensive | Dems question IRS on new tax forms | Warren rolls out universal child care proposal | Illinois governor signs bill for minimum wage MORE (Iowa), that mirrors the White House's framework.

That plan included a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants in the country illegally, $25 billion in border security funds, changes to family-based immigration and the elimination of the State Department's diversity visa lottery. 

"If Congress does a temporary patch once, it will do it 20 times again. My concern is for the DACA kids that are in my state of Oklahoma ... they are looking for an actual solution," Lankford said.

But when Flake rejected the modification request, Lankford objected to passing the original three-year DACA and border security fix.

Flake noted that the Grassley proposal based on Trump's immigration plan only got 39 votes during last month's failed debate, where he said he watched lawmakers "squander the best opportunity we've had in a long time" to pass a DACA fix.

"The problem is what has been proposed as an amazement here is for all intents and purposes is comprehensive immigration reform which would make changes to legal immigration. That is too much to bite off at this time," Flake said.

The back-and-forth on the Senate floor comes as the debate on the DACA program has largely stalled with no clear path toward a fix after Congress missed a deadline offered by Trump.

The Trump administration announced last year that it was ending the program, setting up a March 5 deadline for Congress to pass legislation. While two court decisions threw that timeline into limbo, the initial deadline passed Monday with no sign of a deal on Capitol Hill. 

Flake pitched the three-year fix with Democratic Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (N.D.). The two have discussed trying to get the stopgap measure included in a government funding bill that Congress has to pass this month.

GOP Sens. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThunePolls: Hiking estate tax less popular than taxing mega wealth, income Will Trump sign the border deal? Here's what we know Key GOP senator pitches Trump: Funding deal a 'down payment' on wall MORE (S.D.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanTexas senator introduces bill to produce coin honoring Bushes GOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats Steel lobby's PR blitz can't paper over damaging effects of tariffs MORE (Ohio) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump escalates fight with NY Times The 10 GOP senators who may break with Trump on emergency Senators optimistic about reaching funding deal MORE (Kan.) have also introduced legislation that would provide protection for current DACA recipients in exchange for $25 billion in a border security trust fund.

Meanwhile Democrats are putting the onus on Trump to come up with an agreement after he rejected back-to-back bipartisan measures.

"President TrumpDonald John TrumpJustice Department preparing for Mueller report as soon as next week: reports Smollett lawyers declare 'Empire' star innocent Pelosi asks members to support resolution against emergency declaration MORE, the ball is in your court. You broke it, you fix it. We Democrats have repeatedly offered compromise proposals that both sides should be proud of, but you have stood firmly in the way of progress," Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration MORE (D-N.Y.) wrote in a Tuesday CNN op-ed.