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 United States broken patent system is getting worse Gun reform groups to pressure GOP senators with rallies in all 50 states To cash in on innovation, remove market barriers for advanced energy technologies 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 HironoDemocratic senator on possibility of Trump standing up to the NRA: 'That's just such BS' Schumer to Trump: Demand McConnell hold vote on background check bill Graham moves controversial asylum bill through panel; Democrats charge he's broken the rules 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 TrumpPossible GOP challenger says Trump doesn't doesn't deserve reelection, but would vote for him over Democrat O'Rourke: Trump driving global, U.S. economy into recession Manchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms 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 DurbinSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions To combat domestic terrorism, Congress must equip law enforcement to fight rise in white supremacist attacks 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 FeinsteinTrump administration urges Congress to reauthorize NSA surveillance program The Hill's Morning Report - More talk on guns; many questions on Epstein's death Juan Williams: We need a backlash against Big Tech 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 CruzTrump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China The Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape O'Rourke says he will not 'in any scenario' run for Senate 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.