Trump hits the brakes on Senate immigration deal

A bipartisan group of senators says they have clinched a deal to provide protections to young immigrants known as Dreamers, but are facing pushback from President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE and GOP leadership.

Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGrassley: No reason to delay Kavanaugh hearing Dem senators back Kavanaugh accuser's call for FBI investigation Kavanaugh accuser says FBI should investigate before she testifies MORE (R-Ariz.) and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGrassley to administration: You must consult Congress on refugee cap Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan group wants to lift Medicaid restriction on substance abuse treatment MORE (D-Ill.) said Thursday the group of six senators has locked down an agreement amongst themselves on pairing a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program with a border security package. 

"We've got this bipartisan group. We are at a deal. ... It's the only game in town," Flake told reporters.

But Durbin and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' Graham knocks South Korea over summit with North MORE (R-S.C.) were told during a Thursday meeting with President Trump at the White House that he was not ready to sign on to the bill.

"We were hoping for that, but the president is not prepared to do that at this moment," Durbin said when asked if they wanted the president's support before they moved forward with their agreement.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, during a press briefing, said, "There has not been a deal reached yet. However, we still think we can get there and we are very focused on trying to make sure that happens."

The group of senators holding the talks — which also includes Democratic Sens. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetOvernight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan senators unveil proposal to crack down on surprise medical bills Multiple NFL players continue on-field protests during national anthem MORE (Colo.) and Bob Menendez (N.J.) and Republican Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerSome employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report Colorado governor sets up federal PAC before potential 2020 campaign Hillicon Valley: Trump signs off on sanctions for election meddlers | Russian hacker pleads guilty over botnet | Reddit bans QAnon forum | FCC delays review of T-Mobile, Sprint merger | EU approves controversial copyright law MORE (Colo.) — has been negotiating for months on a deal that would include a fix for DACA.

Their bill is expected to include legalization for DACA recipients, known as Dreamers, as well as a border security package and changes to the State Department's diversity visa lottery program and family-based immigration policies.

ADVERTISEMENT

Those four parameters are in line with what Trump and lawmakers agreed to during a White House meeting earlier this week.

The six senators said in a joint statement Thursday afternoon they have reached an agreement, which would include a path to citizenship.

"President Trump called on Congress to solve the DACA challenge. ... We are now working to build support for that deal in Congress," they said.

Durbin said the bill would include a pathway to citizenship not only for current DACA recipients, but other immigrants in the country illegally who would qualify for the program. 
 
Meanwhile, Flake indicated that any changes to family-based immigration would be narrowly focused to the current DACA population and their family members, and not apply, as some Republicans want, to the entire immigration population. 
 
Flake also said senators had discussed reallocating some of the State Department's diversity lottery visas to people who have Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a program the Trump administration has been scaling back. 
 
Both Flake and Durbin have declined to discuss specific border security numbers. But Durbin indicated Wednesday night that the border security package would include funding for fencing and barriers, but also technology. 

Durbin confirmed that he believed the group has an agreement and they are "working to get support from the other senators, on both sides of the aisle, and we won't be releasing draft or final version at least through the weekend."

Flake added that members of the working group will try to line up more co-sponsors before releasing details of their deal.

"We're shopping it among our colleagues," he said. "We got a few others already said they'll sign on and we're working on others before we release details of it."

Staffers for Durbin, Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford Blumenthal: Kavanaugh nomination should be withdrawn Cornyn takes on O'Rourke over AR-15s MORE (R-Texas) and Reps. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDems' confidence swells with midterms fast approaching Trump's Puerto Rico tweets spark backlash Hoyer lays out government reform blueprint MORE (D-Md.) and Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil GOP: The economy will shield us from blue wave Jordan hits campaign trail amid bid for Speaker MORE (R-Calif.) are expected to meet Thursday as part of separate discussions to figure out a path forward.

"Kevin McCarthy asked for a chance to move forward. ... We'll work with him to see what we can achieve," Durbin said.

Still, the White House suggested the emerging Senate agreement was not something Trump would accept, even though the president on Tuesday suggested he would sign whatever immigration bill lawmakers sent to his desk.

Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, said the president has not signed on to the agreement and that there is a "long ways to go."

He added that the White House is "not looking for DACA to be the DREAM Act" — referring to the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act that provides a path to citizenship.

Short added the president wants changes to "chain migration" to go broader than just impacting the DACA population, a potential hurdle from the bipartisan Senate group's deal.

"I think we're pleased that bipartisan members are talking ... but I still think there's a ways to go," he said.

GOP Sens. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonGOP senators condemn 'vulgar' messages directed at Collins over Kavanaugh GOP turns its fire on Google Overnight Defense: Trump denies report he's looking at Mattis replacements | Inhofe officially gets Armed Services gavel | Trump revives shutdown threat MORE (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.), McCarthy and Rep. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteVirginia reps urge Trump to declare federal emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence Republicans mull new punishments for dissident lawmakers Republicans ready to grill Bruce Ohr as Trump-DOJ feud escalates MORE (R-Va.) — who have not been part of the bipartisan Senate talks — were also part of Thursday's White House meeting.

Cornyn said a message had been delivered that the bipartisan group would not be able to single-handedly decide what the final DACA agreement is.

"I think what the president told them is its fine for them to negotiate ... but what they need to do is share that with others so it will have broad enough support to actually get passed," he said.

The Trump administration announced last year that they were ending the DACA program, giving Congress a March deadline to codify the Obama-era program into law.

Both sides have appeared sympathetic to DACA recipients, but Congress has struggled to come up with a broad agreement that could win enough support to overcome likely pushback from conservatives as well as progressive Democrats.

Goodlatte was part of a group of House Republicans who introduced their own proposal this week, but that bill is unlikely to be able to win over enough support to pass the Senate.

 

- Alex Bolton contributed

Updated at 4:24 p.m.