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Senate has day of speeches on immigration, but no vote

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), center, speaks

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), center, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday following the weekly Republican policy luncheon. Credit: AP / Susan Walsh

WASHINGTON — The Senate debate over a bill to address immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children bogged down Tuesday as Republicans pushed the president’s bill and Democrats argued for a narrower measure.

After a day of speeches but no votes, the Senate will begin the third day of deliberations Wednesday with back-room negotiations and votes on immigration measures, including those to legalize so-called Dreamers before the end of a program now protecting them from deportation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) adjourned the Senate at the end of the day when Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) blocked his motion to hold a vote on a Republican bill cracking down on sanctuary cities and a bipartisan bill to protect Dreamers and support border security.

“There have been meetings that have been going on all day on a bipartisan basis to try to resolve the issue before us,” said Durbin to explain his objection. “I believe progress is being made. I hope that we can continue along these lines.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is counting on a negotiated deal to find a bipartisan bill that can attract 60 votes from the nearly evenly divided Senate, where Republicans have 51 votes and Democrats 49.

McConnell urged Democrats to back a Republican bill based on President Donald Trump’s demands: extend protection and eventual citizenship to 1.8 million eligible immigrants, build a wall, curb family reunification and end the visa lottery.

“This proposal has my support and during this week of fair debate I believe it deserves support of every senator who’s ready to move beyond making points and actually making a law,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

And he warned Democrats that the Senate must find a measure that gets 60 votes this week, before Congress goes on a weeklong Presidents Day recess next week.

“This is the debate that said they wanted. I said we’d have an open and fair process. We’re trying to do that. And the sooner we get started the better because we’ll need to wrap this up this week,” McConnell said.

Schumer resisted McConnell’s pressure to pass the broader Trump bill.

“The path to 60 is by focusing on responding to the challenge of Dreamers and giving them a pathway to citizenship, and responding to the challenge of border security,” Schumer said.

“It we focus on that in the next two days, I think the Senate will do its work and get it done,” Schumer added. “But I also don’t think we should just do this between now and Thursday. I think we should stay on this topic until we get this job done.”

Durbin, who has long championed Dreamers and is sponsor of a bipartisan bill to give them legal authority to work and live in the United States and become citizens, invoked the story of Olympic gold medalist Chloe Kim as evidence of the importance of immigration.

Kim’s father came to the United States from South Korea in 1982 with a few hundred dollars and little English speaking ability but went on to get a college degree and raise a daughter who won gold for the United States in the halfpipe snowboarding competition Tuesday.

In September, Trump ordered the end of former President Barack Obama’s 2012 executive order creating the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals that protects Dreamers from deportation, and gave Congress until March 5 to pass legislation to authorize that program.

Court orders in California and, on Tuesday, in New York’s Brooklyn federal court put a stay on that March 5 deadline, however.

Still, Trump also urged swift action in a Tuesday morning tweet.

“Negotiations on DACA have begun. Republicans want to make a deal and Democrats say they want to make a deal. Wouldn’t it be great if we could finally, after so many years, solve the DACA puzzle. This will be our last chance, there will never be another opportunity! March 5th,” Trump tweeted.

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