Trump, Senate GOP discuss effort to overhaul legal immigration

Trump, Senate GOP discuss effort to overhaul legal immigration
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Buttigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' MORE is reviving efforts to overhaul the legal immigration system after previous attempts by the White House were derailed on Capitol Hill.
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 CottonGOP senator: Supreme Court abortion cases were 'wrongly decided as a constitutional matter' Senate confirms controversial 9th Circuit pick without blue slips Cotton: US could win war with Iran in 'two strikes' 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 KushnerWhite House encouraging investment in Middle East as part of peace plan Bank staff highlighted 'suspicious activity' in Trump-, Kushner-controlled accounts: report Trump: 'Good chance' Dems give immigration 'win' after Pelosi called White House plan 'dead on arrival' MORE, adviser Stephen MillerStephen MillerActing DHS secretary threatened to quit after clashing with Miller: report The Memo: Trump's new immigration plan finds few friends Schumer: Miller's involvement on immigration makes plan a 'surefire failure' MORE and acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyBolton emerges as flashpoint in GOP debate on Iran Acting DHS secretary threatened to quit after clashing with Miller: report On The Money: Treasury rejects Dem subpoena for Trump tax returns | Companies warn trade war about to hit consumers | Congress, White House to launch budget talks next week | Trump gets deal to lift steel tariffs on Mexico, Canada MORE.
In addition to Perdue, Cruz and Cotton, GOP Sens. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyBolton emerges as flashpoint in GOP debate on Iran Senate Republicans running away from Alabama abortion law McSally to introduce military sexual assault reform bill MORE (Ariz.), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoTrump, Senate GOP discuss effort to overhaul legal immigration Dems propose fining credit agencies for data breaches Mueller fails to break stalemate on election meddling crackdown MORE (Idaho), Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischTrump, Europe increasingly at odds on Iran Overnight Defense: Congressional leaders receive classified briefing on Iran | Trump on war: 'I hope not' | Key Republican calls threats credible | Warren plan targets corporate influence at Pentagon Congressional leaders receive classified Iran briefing MORE (Idaho), Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Defense: Trump rails against media coverage | Calls reporting on Iran tensions 'highly inaccurate' | GOP senator blocking Trump pick for Turkey ambassador | Defense bill markup next week Trump reaches deal to lift steel, aluminum tariffs on Mexico, Canada Top GOP senator blocking Trump's pick for Turkey ambassador MORE (Iowa), Kevin CramerKevin John CramerBolton emerges as flashpoint in GOP debate on Iran Trump's immigration push faces Capitol Hill buzzsaw Lawmakers introduce legislation to improve cyber workforce funding MORE (N.D.), Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Trump nominates Shanahan as Pentagon chief | House panel advances bill to block military funds for border wall | Trump defends Bolton despite differences Trump nominates Shanahan as Pentagon chief Iran, Venezuela puts spotlight on Trump adviser John Bolton MORE (Okla.), Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnGraham warns of 5G security threat from China Export-Import Bank back to full strength after Senate confirmations Trump, Senate GOP discuss effort to overhaul legal immigration MORE (Tenn.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeBolton emerges as flashpoint in GOP debate on Iran Frustrated GOP senators want answers from Trump on Iran Congress can expand paid leave and help workers save with bipartisan support MORE (Utah) and Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziKudos to the legislators trying to fix our broken budget On The Money: Mnuchin signals officials won't release Trump tax returns | Trump to hold off on auto tariffs | WH nears deal with Mexico, Canada on metal tariffs | GOP fears trade war fallout for farmers | Warren, regulator spar over Wells Fargo Budget chairs pick former Bush official to head CBO 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."