GOP senators drafting legislation to keep immigrant families together

GOP senators drafting legislation to keep immigrant families together
© Greg Nash

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynDemocrats up ante in risky debt ceiling fight Senate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Democrats make case to Senate parliamentarian for 8 million green cards MORE (R-Texas) said on Tuesday that a group of Republican senators is drafting legislation that would prevent the separation of immigrant families at the U.S. border with Mexico.

Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said the legislation is currently being crafted by a working group of GOP senators, but they are hoping to pitch the Senate Republican Conference on the bill as early as the Tuesday policy lunch.

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"The bottom line is that it would make sure families stay together through the entirety of the legal proceedings and make sure they get an expedited hearing in front of an immigration judge," Cornyn said.

Cornyn's comments come as President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE's "zero tolerance" immigration policy along the southern border, which is forcing the separation of migrant families, has sparked high-profile backlash among Republicans. GOP lawmakers are weighing what, if any, action they should take to push back on Trump.

Senate Democrats have united behind a bill from Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinRepublicans caught in California's recall trap F-35 fighter jets may fall behind adversaries, House committee warns Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack MORE (D-Calif.), but Republicans argue that bill is too broad and would result in the release of immigrants trying to enter the United States illegally.

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzPoll: Trump dominates 2024 Republican primary field Republican politicians: Let OSHA do its job O'Rourke prepping run for governor in Texas: report MORE (R-Texas) is expected to introduce his own bill, while Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamRep. Tim Ryan becomes latest COVID-19 breakthrough case in Congress Graham found Trump election fraud arguments suitable for 'third grade': Woodward book Senate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan MORE (R-S.C.) said 40 senators approached him to discuss legislation during a Monday night vote series.

Cornyn added that the working group is trying to come up with one bill that could merge the various ideas being bandied about the Republican conference.

"My understanding of what the staff has done is come up with a consensus of all these bills ... that could garner the broader support in our conference," he said. "Ideally, what we'd do is be able to get this hotlined and get it to the president's desk in short order."

He said separately that if they could get enough support for their legislation it could be moved through the Senate "in a matter of days."

But any legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate. Getting a bill "hotlined" would require the consent of every senator, which could be a political impossibility on an issue as divisive as immigration.

Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonProgressive foreign policy should not be pro-autocracy Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE (R-Ark.), who is a part of Cornyn's working group, separately told radio host Hugh Hewitt that he would try to attach an immigration proposal to a larger appropriations bill being debated by the Senate this week.

"All we need to do ... is overturn the so-called Flores Settlement, allow families to be held at the border, provide a little bit of extra money to the military and [Department of Homeland Security] for family housing units while those claims are adjudicated," he said.

Cotton added that "we’re going to offer an amendment this week on the spending bill. It can be done promptly."