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 CollinsTrump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in ahead of House vote to condemn tweet 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 nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Feds allow campaigns to accept discounted cybersecurity services GOP frets over nightmare scenario for Senate primaries 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. 
GOP Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGoogle official denies allegations of ties to China The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Cruz in 2016 said 'something fundamentally wrong' with Christians who back Trump: book MORE (Texas), whose bill has only picked up GOP support, and Democratic Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinHillicon Valley: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency plan | Trump vows to 'take a look' at Google's ties to China | Google denies working with China's military | Tech execs on defensive at antitrust hearing | Bill would bar business with Huawei Epstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse Feinstein introduces bill to prohibit campaigns from using social media bots MORE (Calif.), whose bill is supported by the entire Democratic caucus, presented their proposals during the meeting. 
"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 TillisRepublicans scramble to contain Trump fallout McConnell says Trump is not a racist, but calls for better rhetoric GOP senator: 'Outrageous' to say Trump's tweets about Democratic congresswomen are racist 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."