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Senate rejects bipartisan immigration bill

There are doubts any bill set for a vote would get the 60 votes needed to pass.

From left, Sen. Susan Collins, Sen. Jeff Flake,

From left, Sen. Susan Collins, Sen. Jeff Flake, Sen. Joe Manchin and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen at a news conference on the bipartisan immigration deal on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. Photo Credit: AP / J. Scott Applewhite

WASHINGTON

The Senate on Thursday failed to approve both a hardline immigration measure supported by President Donald Trump and a narrower bipartisan alternative, raising doubts that Congress will be able to resolve the status of young Dreamers.

With 11 Republicans joining all Democrats, the Senate rejected in a 60-39 vote the Trump-backed bill that would grant a path to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants brought here illegally as children, provide $25 billion for a border wall and restrict legal immigration.

The Senate also fell short of the 60 votes needed for approval, in a 54 to 45 vote, of the bipartisan compromise that was crafted by eight members of each party’s caucus and offered citizenship to the young Dreamer immigrants and full border-wall funding.

With those votes, the Senate came up empty-handed after a week dedicated to finding a passable bill to authorize the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program created by a President Obama executive order in 2012 and ordered by Trump to expire on March 5.

If Congress does not act, deportations of the 690,000 registered Dreamers likely would not happen immediately, given that Trump’s order to end DACA is tied up in court, but they could lose their permits to hold jobs, a White House official said.

The focus could shift to the Republican-led House, where lawmakers are working on their own legislation that mirrors Trump’s “four pillars,” adding elements with even more restrictions and security measures to immigration law.

Yet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) left the door open to further legislation on immigration, despite his earlier self-imposed deadline of finishing this week. McConnell made it clear any proposals would have to meet the president’s demands.

“This does not have to be the end of our efforts to resolve these matters. I remain eager to improve our immigration policy,” McConnell said after all four measures up in the series of votes failed to pass.

“If a solution is developed in the future that can pass both the House and the Senate and be signed into law by the president, it should be considered,” McConnell said. “But for that to happen, Democrats will need to take a second look at these core elements of necessary reform.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) laid the blame at Trump’s feet for the defeat of the bipartisan measure, pointing out the president opposed the only bipartisan bill, negotiated in an effort led by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.) over three weeks.

After the Collins group announced their bipartisan compromise Wednesday night, the White House launched a blitz of criticism and a lobbying effort to persuade Republican senators to vote against it.

Just hours before the votes, Trump issued a threat to veto that Collins bill, stating he “strongly opposed” it. The Department of Homeland Security posted a “fact sheet” opposing the bill. Collins and other sponsors said the Homeland Security post included misinformation.

“President Trump created this problem by terminating the DACA program last August,” Schumer said. “Since that decision, President Trump has stood in the way of every single proposal that could become law.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who was part of the Collins bipartisan group, said he still thinks there is “a deal to be had” that meets many of Trump’s priorities. But Graham added, “The only way forward is for President Trump to grab the reins and lead us to a solution.”

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