Trump, Senate GOP discuss effort to overhaul legal immigration

Trump, Senate GOP discuss effort to overhaul legal immigration
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Trump, White House staff and roughly a dozen Senate Republicans met on Tuesday to discuss a path forward for legislation transitioning to a so-called "merit-based" immigration system, according to lawmakers and the White House.
Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), a close ally of Trump's on immigration, referred to the effort as "RAISE 2.0," a reference to legislation he previously offered with Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonCotton warns China: Crackdown on Hong Kong would be 'grave miscalculation' Congress must address gender gap in nominations to military service academies GOP senators press Google on reports it developed a smart speaker with Huawei MORE (R-Ark.). But unlike the previous bill, Perdue said the White House has dropped proposed cuts to legal immigration.
The GOP senator said lawmakers had "a briefing on some preliminary thoughts at a very high level about how to change … the mix of the 1.1 million legal immigrants."
Unlike the previous White House-backed bill, Perdue said that Trump's new proposal wouldn't reduce legal immigration levels, where roughly 1.1 million people receive legal immigration status in the U.S. each year.
The new proposal would try to shift the federal government's preference for who gets green cards to those with specific job skills instead of family-based immigration, Perdue said. It also wouldn't deal with undocumented immigration.
"The president wants to have a platform that he can be for. He's tired of frankly the media and the Democrats telling the world what he's against," Perdue said.
"That certainly seems to be the direction they're going and the principle focus was border security, closing loopholes that right now are mandating catch and release and helping cause the crisis we have at the border and also reforming legal immigration to move to more of a skill-based legal immigration," he said.
White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley, in a read out to reporters, called the meeting "important and productive."
"The President and Senators discussed a potential plan that would secure the border, protect and raise wages for the American worker, and move toward a merit based immigration system," he added.
Perdue and Cruz were two of the 12 GOP senators who met with Trump and other top administration officials, including Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerPresident tweets 'few work harder' than Ivanka, Jared PETA billboard in Baltimore calls Kushner a 'rich pest' Top immigration aide experienced 'jolt of electricity to my soul' when Trump announced campaign MORE, adviser Stephen MillerStephen MillerThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters Top immigration aide experienced 'jolt of electricity to my soul' when Trump announced campaign New green card restrictions likely would've excluded Trump and Cuccinelli's ancestors MORE and acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump says he'll decide on foreign aid cuts within a week Dick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report Chris Wallace becomes Trump era's 'equal opportunity inquisitor' MORE.
In addition to Perdue, Cruz and Cotton, GOP Sens. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyAnti-gun violence organization endorses Kelly's Senate bid The Hill's Morning Report - Trump searches for backstops amid recession worries Arizona poll shows Kelly overtaking McSally MORE (Ariz.), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoA US-UK free trade agreement can hold the Kremlin to account Oversight Republicans demand answers on Capital One data breach On The Money: Fed cuts rates for first time since financial crisis | Trump rips Fed after chief casts doubt on future cuts | Stocks slide | Senate kicks budget vote amid scramble for GOP support MORE (Idaho), Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischTrump moves forward with billion F-16 sale to Taiwan Trump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China Overnight Defense: US exits landmark arms control treaty with Russia | Pentagon vows to 'fully pursue' once-banned missiles | Ratcliffe out as intel pick | Trump signs budget deal that boosts defense | Trump defends North Korea's Kim as 'friend' MORE (Idaho), Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyWhite House denies exploring payroll tax cut to offset worsening economy Schumer joins Pelosi in opposition to post-Brexit trade deal that risks Northern Ireland accord GOP senators call for Barr to release full results of Epstein investigation MORE (Iowa), Kevin CramerKevin John CramerCastro, Steyer join pledge opposing the Keystone XL pipeline EPA proposes rolling back states' authority over pipeline projects GOP senator held up Trump aide's confirmation to get info on border wall contracts MORE (N.D.), Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeDemocrats, environmentalists blast Trump rollback of endangered species protections Bottom Line Overnight Defense: Dems talk Afghanistan, nukes at Detroit debate | Senate panel advances Hyten nomination | Iranian foreign minister hit with sanctions | Senate confirms UN ambassador MORE (Okla.), Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTaylor Swift defends staying out of the 2016 election: 'I just knew I wasn't going to help' The 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal Senate passes sweeping budget deal, sending it to Trump MORE (Tenn.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeMcConnell, allies lean into Twitter, media 'war' Conservatives buck Trump over worries of 'socialist' drug pricing Criminal justice reform should extend to student financial aid MORE (Utah) and Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziThe 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal On The Money: Fed poised to give Trump boost with rate cut | Parties unable to reach deal in Trump tax return lawsuit | New York opens investigation into Capital One data breach Outgoing Senate Budget chair unveils plans to replace Budget Committee MORE (Wyo.) attended the meeting, according to a list from the White House.
Inhofe, asked if the White House had given a timeline for when they'll formally unveil their proposal, said: "If that came out of this meeting, I guess I missed that."
Crapo declined to discuss details from the meeting but similarly said that there wasn't a "resolution" from the meeting.
"They're not ready to go public with the details," Perdue said, adding that the White House "didn't put a date on" next steps but that he expected they would move "sooner than later."
Any plan would face an uphill battle on Capitol as both parties gear up for the 2020 election, were they view immigration as an issue that helps electrify the base.
Previous attempts to get a broad immigration and border security plan through Congress ran into deeply entrenched partisan and political divides.
The Senate rejected four immigration plans in 2018, including a White House-backed measure that provided a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, included $25 billion for border security, tougher interior enforcement and new limits on legal immigration.
The previous Cotton-Perdue bill also failed to make headway, stalling in the Senate Judiciary Committee despite Trump's endorsement of the legislation.
The Tuesday meeting comes as the Trump administration has homed in on what they are calling a "humanitarian crisis" along the southern border, including requesting an additional $4.5 billion in emergency spending from Congress. 
Cramer appeared to signal after the White House meeting that the administration was focused on a narrower solution, characterizing their goal as what is "doable." Cramer added that there was no discussion about the temporary guest worker program in the meeting. 
"What they were offering up, I don't want to call it modest," he said, "but it's in the doable range."