McConnell: 'Past time' for immigration-border security deal

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown GOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown Jon Stewart slams McConnell over 9/11 victim fund MORE (R-Ky.) said Thursday that it is "way past time" for Congress to try to get a deal on border security and immigration.

"I think it's way past time, on both sides, that we sit down together and see what we could agree to to improve the situation — not only border security, but also the asylum laws are very challenging," McConnell said.

The GOP leader said it's "way past time for us to have an adult, bipartisan discussion about our immigration laws and see what we can agree to."

ADVERTISEMENT

His comments come as President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment MORE has lashed out at Democrats over border security this week, saying in a tweet on Wednesday night that their actions on the issue were "treasonous." 

"What the Democrats are doing with the Border is TREASONOUS. Their Open Border mindset is putting our Country at risk. Will not let this happen!" Trump wrote in the tweet.

Despite the tweet, the White House has been quietly trying to reach out to Democrats to try to see if there is a path forward on immigration legislation.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump asks Mulvaney to leave room during ABC interview due to coughing Trump asks Mulvaney to leave room during ABC interview due to coughing GOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown MORE and acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan met with a group of Senate Democrats this week, including Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw The Hill's Morning Report - Trump and House Democrats resume battle MORE (Ill.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenDesign leaks for Harriet Tubman bill after Mnuchin announces delay Design leaks for Harriet Tubman bill after Mnuchin announces delay Bipartisan senators push new bill to improve foreign lobbying disclosures MORE (N.H.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinNew push to regulate self-driving cars faces tough road Trump remarks deepen distrust with intelligence community Trump remarks deepen distrust with intelligence community MORE (Calif.).

McConnell added on Thursday that any immigration legislation should touch on not only border security but also changes to the asylum laws, adding that it would also have to be bipartisan.

The fresh talk about an immigration and border deal comes amid a shake-up at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in recent days, which has seen the departure of nearly all senior department officials over the past week.

"It can't all be solved by changing personnel, some of it requires changing the law. That means we have to deal with the Democrats. They're in the majority in the House," McConnell said Thursday.

Some GOP senators, including Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonHillicon Valley: Lawmakers angered over Border Patrol breach | Senate Dems press FBI over Russian hacking response | Emails reportedly show Zuckerberg knew of Facebook's privacy issues | FCC looks to improve broadband mapping Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers angered over Border Patrol breach | Senate Dems press FBI over Russian hacking response | Emails reportedly show Zuckerberg knew of Facebook's privacy issues | FCC looks to improve broadband mapping Lawmakers demand answers on Border Patrol data breach MORE (Wis.), have floated rolling out new legislation to deal with the asylum law and other migrants detained along the border.

McConnell, asked if he would be reaching out Democrats, predicted that they would see the comments he made Thursday during a pen-and-pad meeting with reporters at the Capitol.

"We talk to each other. And we all read what each other says and I just said how I felt about that," he said.

Asked if he would support opening the discussions up to comprehensive immigration reform — a tall legislative ask in an era of divided government where immigration has been deeply partisan — the GOP leader sidestepped.

"I'm willing to enter into a negotiation to see what we can do to fix the problems," he said.