“Clock ticking as senators search for an immigration plan that can pass”


“The Senate will embark on a[n]…immigration debate this week, testing the limits of whether there is still a political center on the contentious issue in the era of President Donald Trump, and whether a deal can be reached in a span of a few days.

“The Senate voted Monday evening [February 12] to advance that debate, the first step in potentially protecting hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the US illegally as children from deportation, but pressure from both the left and right could make it harder than ever to achieve something on immigration.

“…Unlike five years ago when the Senate debated comprehensive immigration reform on the floor of the Senate, the politics of the moment have been complicated by not only a President who made building a border wall and deporting immigrants the centerpiece of his campaign, but a Democratic base that is demanding more than ever that its members hold the line against the President.

“Another complicating factor? Members and aides tell CNN that the debate is only expected to last a week, a tight deadline for a congressional body that relies on unanimous cooperation and is prone to dilatory tactics.

“…There are still many unanswered questions about how the debate will unfold. The number of amendments is still uncertain as are the contents of those amendments. Republican have introduced one amendment that closely resembles Trump's immigration framework. And a bipartisan group of lawmakers is still trying to craft their own proposal to present for a vote. But Democrats haven't unveiled their amendments at this point and frustration was growing Monday night from Republicans that Democrats still hadn't laid down out their hand.

“…Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been careful not to put his thumb on the scale of the debate. Instead, laying down a shell bill that had nothing to do with immigration that he has invited members to amend. The rules of the debate are simple: whoever can get 60 votes on their proposal, wins.

"But lingering in members' minds is the stark reality that it's possible the week ends with no resolution at all on the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Weeks of bipartisan, bicameral meetings between the House and Senate vote counters haven't yielded an agreement, [and] the White House has shot down multiple bipartisan proposals…

“…Even if they could come to a consensus there is no guarantee the House would agree nor is their any commitment the President would sign it.

“…If there's a middle ground, it's not clear yet. And in the era of Trump, it's not even clear if there even is one…on immigration anymore.”

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