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 John TrumpMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Judge orders Democrats to give notice if they request Trump's NY tax returns Trump's doctor issues letter addressing 'speculation' about visit to Walter Reed MORE's immigration framework into legislation as the chamber barrels toward a floor fight with no deal in sight.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynImpeachment hearings don't move needle with Senate GOP GOP divided over impeachment trial strategy GOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial MORE (R-Texas) said Republican senators — led by Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate aides met with tax return whistleblower: report Booker, Sanders propose new federal agency to control drug prices GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse 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 GOP waves Trump off early motion to dismiss impeachment charges On The Money: Lawmakers dismiss fears of another shutdown | Income for poorest Americans fell faster than thought | Net employment holds steady in September | Groups press Senate on retirement bill Lawmakers dismiss fresh fears of another government shutdown 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) ManchinPolitical purity tests are for losers Former coal exec Don Blankenship launches third-party presidential bid Centrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda MORE (D-W.Va.), who is part of a bipartisan group led by Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsFeehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Progressive group to spend as much as M to turn out young voters Overnight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families 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 CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSenators introduce bipartisan bill restricting police use of facial recognition tech Centrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda Bill Gates visits Capitol to discuss climate change with new Senate caucus MORE (D-Del.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamHillicon Valley: Commerce extends Huawei waiver | Senate Dems unveil privacy bill priorities | House funding measure extends surveillance program | Trump to tour Apple factory | GOP bill would restrict US data going to China Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Stopgap spending bill includes military pay raise | Schumer presses Pentagon to protect impeachment witnesses | US ends civil-nuclear waiver in Iran Cruz, Graham and Cheney call on Trump to end all nuclear waivers for Iran 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 McConnellFeehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds McConnell urges Trump to voice support for Hong Kong protesters Key GOP senator: 'We need a breakthrough' on spending talks 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.