Senate rejects Trump immigration plan
The Senate rejected legislation based on President Trump’s framework for an immigration deal in a 39-60 vote on Thursday, leaving an uncertain path forward for Congress with nearly a million immigrants sheltered by an Obama-era program facing the prospect of deportation.
The measure spearheaded by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) needed 60 votes to clear a filibuster, but failed to meet the mark.
It was the fourth proposal in a row rejected by the Senate on Thursday afternoon, and it received the fewest votes of support. All three other measures won more than 50 votes.
The Grassley measure provided a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. Many of these people could face deportation beginning in March as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is scaled back, though court rulings are complicating that matter.
It also included $25 billion for border security, tougher interior enforcement and new limits on legal immigration.
Supporters of the plan and the White House mounted an intense pressure campaign to win over the 60 votes needed to move forward with their plan.
“The president, in my view, has gone more than halfway to meet the Democrats and resolve this matter. If they’re actually interested in finding a solution, it’s time they take yes for an answer,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said ahead of the vote.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also called the framework a “reasonable compromise.”
And Trump, in a tweet, urged senators to “strongly consider a system of merit based immigration.”
“While the Republicans and Democrats in Congress are working hard to come up with a solution to DACA, they should be strongly considering a system of Merit Based Immigration so that we will have the people ready, willing and able to help all of those companies moving into the USA!” he said.
Bolstering the White House, most Senate Republicans backed the measure, despite some concerns about cuts to legal immigration. And Trump won over three Democrats — Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) — all of whom face tough reelection races in deep-red states this fall.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), one of Trump’s closest allies in the Senate, warned ahead of the vote that any Republicans who supported a separate bipartisan proposal should be concerned about “their electoral futures.”
But the interior enforcement measures, limits to legal immigration and nixing of the Diversity Visa Lottery program were largely considered nonstarters for Democrats.
“President Trump, since he created this problem by terminating DACA last August, has stood in the way of every single proposal that has had a chance to become law,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Republicans tried to pressure Democrats into supporting the measure, making it the fourth of the four proposals to get a vote in the Senate Thursday. But Democrats largely scoffed at the take it-or-leave it set up.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) separately told reporters that “I think the writing’s on the wall with the Grassley proposal. … Few if any Democrats will vote for it.”
Grassley tried to win over Democratic support by pledging they would be able to offer changes if it overcame an initial procedural hurdle.
“Aren’t you at a point where here the Democrats have been pleading for months and months and months for justice,” he said, “why would they turn it down?”
Where the Senate’s debate goes next is unclear, though Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters that both sides would keep talking ahead of the March 5 deadline.
Where the Senate’s debate goes next is unclear.
The Trump administration announced last year that they were ending DACA, which allows undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children to work and go to school.
Under that decision Congress has until March 5 to pass a fix. But two court dates have thrown that into limbo.
McConnell said late Thursday afternoon that it had been a “disappointing week” and Democrats “couldn’t take yes for an answer.”
And while noting that he had “held up my end of the bargain,” the GOP leader left the door open to bringing immigration back up if a plan emerged that could pass both chambers and had the support of the White House.
“Even though this week has been squandered, this does not have to be the end of our efforts,” he said.