Family separation bills blocked on Senate floor
© Getty

Senators blocked two competing bills on Wednesday aimed at ending the separation of migrant families detained along the U.S-Mexico border, the latest sign that bipartisan talks in the chamber have failed to resolve the matter.

Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump escalates fight with NY Times The 10 GOP senators who may break with Trump on emergency Dems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters MORE (R-N.C.) tried to get consent to pass a Republican-only bill that would allow families to be detained together while they work their way through the U.S. court system. The measure also would increase the number of immigration judges.

ADVERTISEMENT

"I think it's important that people understand that we're making progress, and it's pretty important to keep the issue and this discussion active in the U.S. Congress because Congress needs to act," Tillis said.

But Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoFemale Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations Trump tweets video mocking Dems not cheering during State of the Union New battle lines in war over Trump’s judicial picks MORE (D-Hawaii) objected to the bill, calling the legislation a "partisan political stunt" that would "distract the American people from the crisis created by Donald 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's zero tolerance policy."

"To continue to enable Donald Trump to pursue his anti-immigrant agenda makes us complicit in his cruelty and injustice," she added.

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDurbin: Trump pressuring acting AG in Cohen probe is 'no surprise' Durbin after reading Green New Deal: 'What in the heck is this?' Sanders: 'Not crazy' about nixing the Senate filibuster MORE (D-Ill.), in turn, tried to pass a bill that he said would tie together legislation from Hirono, to give unaccompanied children legal representation, with legislation from Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFeinstein says she thinks Biden will run after meeting with him Trump judicial nominee Neomi Rao seeks to clarify past remarks on date rape Bottom Line MORE (D-Calif.) that would broadly let families detained along the border stay together with the “presumption” that it is not in their best interest to be detained.

But Tillis, noting Durbin's measure had just been introduced, objected to the Democratic bill.

"We have not had an opportunity to study it," he said. "But without analyzing and [reconciling] it against a bill that I'm actively involved in that the senator mentioned, I object."

The stalemate on the Senate floor comes as talks between Feinstein, Durbin, Tillis and Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzO’Rourke not ruling out being vice presidential candidate CNN ripped for hiring former Republican operative as political editor: 'WTF?!?!' The Hill's Morning Report - Can Bernie recapture 2016 magic? MORE (R-Texas) have hit a roadblock amid deep divisions about how to handle families detained along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Negotiations appeared to get off track earlier this month over two issues crucial to any agreement: what to do about the Flores settlement, which places restrictions on how long children can be detained, and alternatives to detaining families together indefinitely.

Democrats argue that Republicans want to water down or get rid of the Flores settlement, potentially creating a scenario where children could be detained indefinitely with their parents.

Tillis on Wednesday said that's a "false" narrative, adding that Republicans were looking at potential detention of 40-60 days and hoping they could reduce it further.

"What we're trying to do is figure out a reasonable, fair way to keep families together, to have families prioritized so that they can go before a judge and determine whether or not they have a legitimate asylum claim and move as expeditiously as possible," he said.