Senate moderates hunt for compromise on family separation bill
© Greg Nash

A group of Senate moderates huddled on Wednesday as they look for a compromise on legislation addressing the separation of immigrant families detained along the border. 

Roughly a dozen senators met in Maine GOP Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsPoll: More voters oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it Feinstein's office says it has received threats over Kavanaugh Ford taps Obama, Clinton alum to navigate Senate hearing MORE's office to sketch out key differences on the politically fraught issue, as well as potential areas of agreement. 
"We talked about whether or not it is possible to come forward with a bipartisan bill that would deal with the issue of family separations. ...It was a very productive and helpful discussion of the issues," Collins told reporters after the meeting ended. 
Collins previously hosted senators during the three-day government shutdown in January, where the group helped craft a deal that allowed the government to be reopened. Senators also met in  Collins's office to hash out a centrist immigration bill on the the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program but couldn't ultimately win the 60 votes needed for passage.

Wednesday's meeting came after Trump signed an executive order that would require immigrant families detained along the border be kept together "where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources." 


Trump's "zero tolerance" policies, which resulted in the separation of immigrant families along the border, had sparked a days-long backlash from Republicans on Capitol Hill. 

But Republicans, as well as some Democrats, argue legislation is still needed and that Trump's order could be challenged in court. 
"I think that there's a sense that whatever the president did today is not going to solve the problem long term," said Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillTrump rallies in Nevada amid Supreme Court flurry: 'We're gonna get Brett' Trump boosts Heller, hammers 'Wacky Jacky' opponent in Nevada Google says senators' Gmail accounts targeted by foreign hackers MORE (D-Mo.), who took part in the meeting. 
What a compromise bill would look like is unclear. Senators warned Wednesday that the meeting in Collins's office was preliminary. 
"I think this was an initial conversation just to understand the differences of position," Coons said. 
Legislation that senators have offered so far has broken down along party lines. 
"My goal is for them to work together and to produce bipartisan legislation. What I don't want to see happen is for there to be a Democratic bill that fails on the Senate floor. A Republican alternative that also falls and we end up with no legislation at all," Collins told reporters after the meeting. 
In addition to the legislation from Cruz and Feinstein, a group of GOP senators, led by Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisTrump assures storm victims in Carolinas: 'We will be there 100 percent' North Carolina governor: We saw ‘significant damage’ in eastern part of state GOP senator on allegation against Kavanaugh: 'Why on Earth' wasn't it discussed earlier? MORE (R-N.C.), introduced legislation on Wednesday that sought to merge together ideas from across the caucus into one bill.
Tills told reporters early Wednesday evening that he is currently in talks with Democrats to try to find an agreement that could get the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate. 
Tillis estimated that he's spoken to eight Democrats and that his office is working to set up meetings and share the text of his legislation. 
"We're working right now trying to initiate a lot of discussions with members on the other side of the aisle," Tillis said. "The first person I spoke with was Senator Feinstein."