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Senate rejects centrist immigration bill after Trump veto threat

The Senate on Thursday rejected immigration legislation crafted by centrists in both parties after President TrumpDonald TrumpVeteran accused in alleged border wall scheme faces new charges Arizona Republicans to brush off DOJ concern about election audit FEC drops investigation into Trump hush money payments MORE threatened to veto the bill if it made it to his desk.

In a 54-45 vote, the Senate failed to advance the legislation from eight Republican, seven Democratic and one Independent senators. It needed 60 votes to overcome a procedural hurdle. 

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A few Democrats, including Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris's uncle discusses COVID-19 surge in India: 'The conditions are pretty bad' Updating the aging infrastructure in Historically Black Colleges and Universities Bowser on Manchin's DC statehood stance: He's 'not right' MORE (Calif.), Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichSenate votes to nix Trump rule limiting methane regulation Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap Democrats battle over best path for Puerto Rico MORE (N.M.) and Tom UdallTom UdallStudy: Chemical used in paint thinners caused more deaths than EPA identified Oregon senator takes center stage in Democratic filibuster debate Bipartisan bill seeks to raise fees for public lands drilling MORE (N.M.), withheld their votes until it was clear the measure could not get to 60, and then voted against it.

Udall and Heinrich released a statement explaining the bill would have provided funding for Trump's border wall.

The centrist deal, backed by Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCheney drama exposes GOP's Trump rifts House to advance appropriations bills in June, July Manchin touts rating as 'most bipartisan senator' MORE (Maine), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  Cindy McCain: Arizona election audit is 'ludicrous' The Republicans' deep dive into nativism MORE (Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamHouse to advance appropriations bills in June, July The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  The Memo: The GOP's war is already over — Trump won MORE (S.C.) and other Republicans, represented perhaps the best chance to advance legislation in the Senate, but was opposed by Trump and his allies in part because it did not cover all four immigration “pillars” he had demanded.

Two other amendments were rejected before the vote. The first, a bipartisan proposal from Sens. Christopher CoonsChris Andrew CoonsUS, Iran signal possible breakthroughs in nuke talks How the United States can pass Civics 101 Americans for Prosperity launches campaign targeting six Democrats to oppose ending filibuster MORE (D-Del.) and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainDOJ: Arizona recount could violate civil rights laws Cheney fight stokes cries of GOP double standard for women Conservative Club for Growth PAC comes out against Stefanik to replace Cheney MORE (R-Ariz.), fell in a 52-47 vote. The second measure, which would have cracked down on cities that don't comply with federal immigration laws, also fell in a 55-44 vote.

The Senate will now vote on a measure mirroring Trump's proposed immigration deal, but it is also expected to fail. That will leave Congress with an uncertain path on immigration ahead of a March 5 deadline set by the president.

The centrist bill would have allowed about 1.8 million immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children to remain, providing them an eventual pathway to citizenship. It also included $25 billion in border security and would have prevented the parents of “Dreamers” from being sponsored for citizenship.

“This is the only bill that has a chance to get through the United States Senate,” Sen. Angus KingAngus KingDC mayor admitted to Democratic governors group amid statehood fight Democrats fret over Biden spending Schumer works to balance a divided caucus's demands MORE (I-Maine) said during a press conference ahead of the vote.

Trump and conservatives criticized the bill for what it lacked — broad changes to family-based or “chain” immigration and the elimination of the Diversity Visa Lottery program, two demands from the president.

It’s not clear whether the bill would have moved in the House, though its passage by the Senate would have increased pressure on Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney Budowsky: Liz Cheney vs. conservatives in name only Cheney at donor retreat says Trump's actions 'a line that cannot be crossed': report MORE (R-Wis.).

The White House in warning the president would veto it said the bill “would undermine the safety and security of American families and impede economic growth for American workers” and result in “a flood of new illegal immigration in the coming months.”

The Department of Homeland Security separately said the proposal “ignores the lessons of 9/11” and “destroys” the ability of the department to remove undocumented immigrants from the country.

Graham fired back that the statement was “poisonous” and the department should say “thank you” whenever they get an offer that includes money for the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

In an early sign that the bill would fall short, Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerThe unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  The Republicans' deep dive into nativism Fox News inks contributor deal with former Democratic House member MORE (R-Tenn.), who supported the 2013 comprehensive immigration bill, announced on Thursday that he would oppose the bipartisan amendment and back GOP alternative also supported by Trump.

Corker’s decision comes amid speculation that he could change his mind on retiring and run for reelection.

Trump announced last year he was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows immigrants brought into the country illegally to work and go to school.

Under that decision Congress had until March 5 to pass a legislative fix. That decision has been thrown into limbo by a pair of court decisions.

Harris's last-second vote put her on the opposite side of the tally from several other Democratic senators seen as 2020 hopefuls, including Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHillicon Valley: Broadband companies funded fake net neutrality comments, investigation finds | Twitter rolls out tip feature | Google to adopt 'hybrid work week' Warren: Trump is 'a danger to democracy' Biden backs COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers MORE (Mass.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandAustin tight lipped on whether to take sexual assault cases out of commanders' hands Gillibrand touts legislation to lower drug costs: This idea 'is deeply bipartisan' A bipartisan effort to prevent the scourge of sexual assault in the armed forces MORE (N.Y.) and Cory BookerCory BookerBush testifies before Congress about racist treatment Black birthing people face during childbirth, pregnancy Tim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Never underestimate Joe Biden MORE (N.J.).  

Harris said after the vote that she "could not in good conscience" support the centrist group's proposal.  

“I recognize that my colleagues faced the impossible challenge of crafting a bill that could meet the White House’s unreasonable and ever-shifting demands. But regrettably this bill is simply not the answer," she said. 

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders on Cheney drama: GOP is an 'anti-democratic cult' Briahna Joy Gray: Biden campaign promises will struggle if Republicans win back Congress Biden backs COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers MORE (I-Vt.), another potential 2020 hopeful, defended his vote in support of the proposal, noting it is "clearly ... not the bill I would have written." 

"What we should be doing is passing a clean DREAM Act with a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and their parents. We also need to move forward and pass comprehensive immigration reform that will allow people to come out of the shadows and will unite families – not divide them," he said.