What to watch for in the Senate immigration votes

The Senate is barreling toward a showdown on the floor over immigration, with both sides digging in as they hunt for 60 votes.

The battle could come to a head as soon as Thursday, with Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? Democrats leery of Sanders plan to cancel student loan debt GOP lays debate trap for 2020 Democrats MORE (R-Ky.) urging lawmakers to move forward quickly.

“At a minimum, under the regular order, we can make sure at least they receive a vote by Friday morning. I hope the Democratic leader will finally consent to hold these votes on amendments today,” he said.

McConnell has teed up four proposals: A measure from Sens. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDemocrats want White House hopefuls to cool it on Biden attacks Senators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission Senate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion MORE (D-Del.) and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? Trump pick brings scrutiny to 'revolving door' between Pentagon, industry Trump endorses McSally in Arizona Senate race MORE (R-Ariz.) dealing with "Dreamers" and border security, an amendment from Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyOvernight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns Top GOP candidate drops out of Ohio Senate race MORE (R-Pa.) cracking down on sanctuary cities, a bipartisan proposal from the Common Sense Coalition and a framework from the White House.

Under Senate rules, the soonest the Senate can vote is early Friday morning, unless lawmakers agree to speed things up. No votes are currently scheduled.

To overcome an initial procedural hurdle, any proposal would need to get 60 votes, meaning the support of both Republicans and Democrats.

As of Thursday morning each of the four measures appeared short of that total, though lawmakers and the White House are scrambling to lock down support.

Here’s what to watch for.

How many votes can the centrist measure get?

The centrist group, led by Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSusan Collins: Trump's 'she's not my type' defense is 'extremely bizarre' The Hill's Morning Report - In exclusive interview, Trump talks Biden, Iran, SCOTUS and reparations Hillicon Valley: Senate bill would force companies to disclose value of user data | Waters to hold hearing on Facebook cryptocurrency | GOP divided on election security bills | US tracking Russian, Iranian social media campaigns MORE (R-Maine), is working to win over wary members on both sides.

Only eight Republican senators are on board with the proposal. If every Democratic senator supports it — which is not guaranteed — they would need at least 11 Republicans to get 60 votes.

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump endorses McSally in Arizona Senate race Jeff Flake becoming Harvard fellow Democrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump MORE (R-Ariz.) told reporters he is working to whip votes for the plan.

“We’re close,” he said on Thursday. 

The proposal includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children, often referred to as Dreamers. It also contains $25 billion for border security and narrow changes to family-based immigration.

Several Republicans who backed a comprehensive immigration bill in 2013 that was much more expansive, including Sens. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to economist, former Reagan adviser Arthur Laffer Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators MORE (Utah) and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThis week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary MORE (Nev.), have yet to say whether they will support the plan. 

A spokesman for Hatch said he is currently reviewing each of the proposals but "wants to support a proposal that not only can pass the House, but that can be signed into law by the President.”

But Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerPress: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment Jeff Daniels blasts 'cowardice' of Senate Republicans against Trump MORE (R-Tenn.), who also voted for the 2013 bill, on Thursday said he would vote against the bipartisan proposal, dealing a blow to the effort.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is actively lobbying against the proposal, saying it will incentivize more illegal immigration and increase crime.

In a statement Thursday, the White House said advisers would recommend that Trump veto the centrist bill if it reached his desk. 

“This Amendment would drastically change our national immigration policy for the worse by weakening border security and undercutting existing immigration law. … The Amendment would undermine the safety and security of American families and impede economic growth for American workers,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. 

Underscoring the uphill path the amendment has, Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats leery of Sanders plan to cancel student loan debt McConnell opens door to vote on Iran war authorization Negotiators face major obstacles to meeting July border deadline MORE (D-Ill.) warned that some members of the Democratic caucus could also oppose the plan over money it contains for the U.S.-Mexico border wall and a provision that blocks Dreamers from sponsoring parents that knowingly brought them into the country illegally.

"I'm telling you, there are people with serious issues over this compromise," Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said after a closed-door caucus meeting. 

If the bipartisan plan falls short of 60 votes, there’s a possibility that several Democrats — particularly those eying a run for the White House in 2020 — will end up voting against it.

How much support will Trump's "four pillars" plan get?

Trump’s plan, spearheaded by Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? Senate Finance leaders in talks on deal to limit drug price increases Million-dollar drugs pose new challenge for Congress MORE (R-Iowa), is widely expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate.

If every Republican backed the measure, which appears unlikely, Grassley would still need to win over at nine Democratic senators to reach 60.

Only one Democratic senator, Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Energy: New EPA rule could expand officials weighing in on FOIA requests | Trump plan to strip conservation fund gets bipartisan pushback | Agriculture chief downplays climate concerns Trump plan to strip public land conservation fund gets bipartisan pushback Republicans, Trump Jr. signal support for embattled West Virginia governor MORE (W.Va.), has signaled he could potentially back Trump’s framework.

“Everything I've seen in it I can support, but I know that it might be a bridge too far for some people on my side of the aisle,” he told reporters.

The bill, which mirrors the White House framework, includes a path to citizenship for 1.8 million people, $25 billion in border security, tougher interior enforcement and significant cuts to legal immigration.

The White House framework guts the diversity visa lottery program, making up for the cuts in legal immigration by accelerating admission of people stuck in the green card backlog.

How many Republicans will break with the president?

One thing to watch for is how many Republicans vote against the White House’s plan.

With that vote coming last, many Senate Republicans might be wary of contributing to the defeat of Trump’s proposal, even if many of them would prefer the bipartisan approach. Winning significantly less votes on the floor would be an embarrassment for the White House.

It remains to be seen whether Republican senators who have been involved in the bipartisan talks, like Collins, Graham, Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsHouse panel advances bill to create cybersecurity standards for government IT devices The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa August recess under threat as yearly spending bills pile up MORE (S.D.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP lays debate trap for 2020 Democrats Mellman: Are primary debates different? Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — Trump issues order to bring transparency to health care prices | Fight over billions in ObamaCare payments heads to Supreme Court MORE (Fla.), will support the White House framework if it’s the last chance for action on immigration. 

Flake, for one, has said he can’t support the White House plan due to the cuts it would make to legal immigration.

Republican senators up for reelection may be especially keen to avoid a break with the White House on the issue, given how crucial Trump’s support can be in fending off a primary challenge.

At least one Republican, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP lays debate trap for 2020 Democrats O'Rourke on Senate bid backer Beyoncé: I will have to 'earn her support' for 2020 Hickenlooper, Bennet bring deep ties to 2020 debate stage MORE (Texas), appears dead set against all of the immigration proposals, including Trump’s. He voted against starting debate and says the Senate should not pass “amnesty” for Dreamers.

Will any Dems agree to Trump measure if it's the last bill standing?

Republicans are preparing to dare Democrats to either support the White House’s framework or accept doing nothing.

Under McConnell’s floor maneuvering, Trump’s plan is currently the last of the four measures to get a vote — setting up a take-it-or-leave-it dynamic for Democrats.

But Durbin predicted the Grassley–White House plan will still fall short, even if nothing else is able to get 60 votes.

"I think the writing's on the wall with the Grassley proposal. ... Few if any Democrats will vote for it,” he said.

Republicans will likely put pressure on the 10 Democrats up for reelection in states won by President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump campaign buys full page ads in Miami newspapers ahead of Dem debates Trump administration's 'forced diplomacy' with Iran isn't working Roy Moore trails Republican field in Alabama MORE in 2016, as well as Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, who just won a seat from the Republican-leaning state of Alabama.

Democrats will have to weigh the White House framework against the possibility of coming up empty-handed and playing the blame game with Trump from now until November.

And Grassley, who has repeatedly lashed out at Democrats, said if they agree to give his plan an initial 60 votes they would be able to offer changes before a final vote.

"Here's an opportunity to do something. We shouldn't miss this opportunity. ... It's got the best chance of getting through the House of Representatives, and it's the only one that you hear talked about that the president will sign,” he said.

If all of the Senate plans fail, it could give a boost to a more hawkish immigration bill in the House proposed by Rep. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteTop Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview It’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling MORE (R-Va.). 

Still, it remains to be seen whether Goodlatte’s bill can pass the House. And even if it did, it would almost certainly be dead on arrival in the Senate, essentially ensuring a failure to legislate on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, at least before March 5.