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 TrumpOver 100 lawmakers consistently voted against chemical safeguards: study CNN's Anderson Cooper unloads on Trump Jr. for spreading 'idiotic' conspiracy theories about him Cohn: Jamie Dimon would be 'phenomenal' president MORE's immigration framework into legislation as the chamber barrels toward a floor fight with no deal in sight.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynKavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow Grassley: Kavanaugh accuser 'deserves to be heard' in 'appropriate' manner MORE (R-Texas) said Republican senators — led by Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyWife of 'Glow' director writes 'Stop Kavanaugh' on her arm for Emmy Awards Grassley agrees to second Kavanaugh hearing after GOP members revolt Murkowski echoes calls for Kavanaugh, accuser to testify 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 LankfordOutdated global postal system hurts US manufacturers Tech mobilizes to boost election security State Department unit created to fight foreign election interference still waiting on funding: report 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) ManchinKavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow MORE (D-W.Va.), who is part of a bipartisan group led by Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMurkowski echoes calls for Kavanaugh, accuser to testify Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday White House says Kavanaugh ready to testify over 'false allegation' 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 CoonsSunday shows preview: White House officials on offensive in wake of anonymous NY Times op-ed Congress and Trump are out of step on intellectual property White House drops plan to cut foreign aid MORE (D-Del.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCriticizing Trump’s ‘unsung success’ in Puerto Rico is valid — empty rhetoric is not Biden: Delay Kavanaugh vote to give accuser a fair, respectful hearing Ken Starr says 'I trust Brett Kavanaugh' over allegations that are 'so wildly out of character' 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 McConnellMurkowski echoes calls for Kavanaugh, accuser to testify McConnell rips Democrats for handling of Kavanaugh nomination Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow 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.