Family separation bills blocked on Senate floor
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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 TillisCollins offering bill to boost battery research as GOP pushes energy 'innovation' Lawmakers call for investigation after census hired registered sex offender Dem Senate campaign arm hits GOP lawmakers over Trump tax law 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.

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"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 HironoSenate confirms Rosen for No. 2 spot at DOJ Alabama abortion law sparks fears Supreme Court may overturn Roe v. Wade The CASE Act is an opportunity for creators to have rights and remedies 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 TrumpFeinstein, Iranian foreign minister had dinner amid tensions: report The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign 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 DurbinThreat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Senate Democrats request watchdog, Red Cross probe DHS detention facilities Iraq War looms over Trump battle with Iran 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, Iranian foreign minister had dinner amid tensions: report Jeffrey Rosen officially sworn in as deputy attorney general This week: Democrats, White House set for infrastructure, budget talks 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 CruzJim Carrey fires back at 'Joe McCarthy wanna-be' Cruz Hillicon Valley: Google delays cutting off Huawei | GOP senators split over breaking up big tech | Report finds DNC lagging behind RNC on cybersecurity GOP senators split over antitrust remedies for big tech 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.