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GOP senators turning Trump immigration framework into legislation

GOP senators turning Trump immigration framework into legislation
© Greg Nash

A group of GOP senators is working to translate President TrumpDonald TrumpNYT: Rep. Perry played role in alleged Trump plan to oust acting AG Arizona GOP censures top state Republicans McCain, Flake and Ducey Biden and UK prime minister discuss NATO, multilateralism during call MORE's immigration framework into legislation as the chamber barrels toward a floor fight with no deal in sight.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump impeachment trial to begin week of Feb. 8 Limbaugh falsely says Biden didn't win legitimately while reacting to inauguration Top Texas Democratic Party staffers to step down after underwhelming election results MORE (R-Texas) said Republican senators — led by Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyOn The Money: Treasury announces efforts to help people get stimulus payments | Senate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury | Judge sets ground rules for release of Trump taxes Senate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury Finance Committee vote on Yellen nomination scheduled for Friday MORE (Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee — are working to write a bill based on the White House's proposal.

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"That's what the discussion is," Cornyn told The Hill after a meeting with Grassley and other GOP senators, including Sens. David Perdue (Ga.) and James LankfordJames Paul LankfordSenate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury The Hill's 12:30 Report: What to expect for inauguration GOP Sen. Lankford apologizes to Black constituents for opposing election results MORE (Okla.), when asked if they were drafting legislation.

Cornyn didn't specifically rule out changes to the framework as the senators create the legislation, but said they aren't going to "negotiate against ourselves."

Spokespeople for Grassley didn't respond to a request for comment.

It's unclear if senators will formally introduce the legislation as a stand-alone measure and offer it during next week's immigration debate.

Lankford also confirmed that the group is drafting legislation based on Trump's outline. That framework would give citizenship to roughly 1.8 million immigrants brought into the country illegally as children in exchange for tens of billions of dollars in border wall and security funding, and sweeping changes to legal immigration.

But it's been widely panned by Democrats, as well as some GOP senators who are wary of making changes to legal immigration as part of a deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Lankford appeared to signal that he had talked with Democrats as the immigration proposal is being drafted.

"I've had all kinds of conversations with Democrats saying, what changes would you need," he said.

But Lankford added that both sides are digging in, rather than trying to close the gap.

Cornyn, when asked about making changes to accommodate Democrats, also suggested there has been little headway.

"They seem to have this illusion that all they need to do is deal with about half of it," he said.

It's unclear which Democrats have been involved in discussions. Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden EPA asks Justice Dept. to pause defense of Trump-era rules | Company appeals rejection of Pebble Mine | Energy pick Granholm to get hearing Wednesday Nomination hearing for Biden Energy pick Granholm set for Wednesday Bipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief MORE (D-W.Va.), who is part of a bipartisan group led by Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden's crisis agenda hits headwinds GOP senators say only a few Republicans will vote to convict Trump For Biden, a Senate trial could aid bipartisanship around COVID relief MORE (R-Maine), said he hasn't talked to Cornyn or Grassley about turning the administration's framework into legislation.

Senators from both parties have floated a scaled-back bill that would link a fix for DACA to a border security package.

But the White House has shot down a proposal from Sens. Christopher CoonsChris Andrew CoonsDemocrats seek answers on impact of Russian cyberattack on Justice Department, Courts Senators introduce bill to award Officer Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal Senate chaos threatens to slow Biden's agenda MORE (D-Del.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump selects South Carolina lawyer for impeachment trial Democrats formally elect Harrison as new DNC chair McConnell proposes postponing impeachment trial until February MORE (R-S.C.), which did not include funding for Trump's border wall.

The stalemate comes as the Senate could turn to a fight over immigration in a matter of days.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden leans on Obama-era appointees on climate Kentucky Republican committee rejects resolution urging McConnell to condemn Trump impeachment Calls grow for 9/11-style panel to probe Capitol attack MORE (R-Ky.) has promised he will start a debate if a larger deal isn't reached by Thursday. But he's given no indication about what bill he will use as the Senate's starting point.