Immigration talks: What's next?

As the dust settled Monday on an agreement to reopen the government, the path forward for immigration remained as mur...

Posted: Jan 23, 2018 11:37 AM
Updated: Jan 23, 2018 11:37 AM

As the dust settled Monday on an agreement to reopen the government, the path forward for immigration remained as murky as ever.

Democrats and Republicans who worked to break the impasse over the shutdown spun their vote to accept a slightly shorter continuing resolution as a victory because of a commitment to turn to immigration. But the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy and discussions on border security are undetermined.

Immigration advocacy groups and supporters immediately criticized Democrats for giving up too easily

Bipartisan talks will continue

"Well, there's conversations already started, bipartisan conversation, about whether we can come up with a bipartisan Senate bill before February 8," said Senate No. 2 Democrat Dick Durbin, who had been pursuing a DACA compromise for months.

The "hope," he said, for those who pushed for a promise to move to immigration is that if a bill can pass the Senate with a strong bipartisan vote, President Donald Trump may endorse it and push the House to act.

Since Trump ended DACA, which protects young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children, lawmakers have worked to find a way preserve the popular program while meeting the President's and Republicans' demands for border security and immigration enforcement changes along with it.

The White House on Monday continued to meet with Republican senators, many of whom are conservative hardliners, as it has remained opposed to bipartisan proposals that have been floated thus far.

Still, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged Monday to consider an immigration bill, including DACA, sometime soon.

"it would be my intention to take up legislation here in the Senate that would address DACA, border security, and, related issues as well as disaster relief, defense funding, health care, and other important matters," McConnell said Monday, saying the process would have "a level playing field" and be "fair to all sides."

After a brief weekend shutdown, Congress on Monday voted to fund government until February 8 -- which will be the new deadline for any agreement between the parties on immigration and other outstanding issues. Absent agreement, McConnell said, the Senate will move to an open debate.

That was enough to convince a number of Democrats to support the funding bill -- but they all indicated they expected to see the promise delivered.

"Trust but verify is my motto," said Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats. "He's made this commitment publicly, he made it on the floor of the Senate. ... I think this is an important opportunity for him to demonstrate that he will carry through."

A 'Gang of 60' or more?

Bipartisan talks will continue -- but lawmakers were expected to broaden beyond the core group of negotiators who had hammered out a compromise previously.

The founders of the Gang of Six senators that had brought a bipartisan proposal to Trump, only to have it crudely rejected, said that original group will no longer be operative as supporters of its work aim to get something that can pass the full Senate, where 60 votes are needed to advance legislation and Republicans have only a 51-49 majority.

"The Gang of Six started the process," Graham said. "That's all it was there to do. We need the Gang of 60. So the Gang of Six is going to be replaced by the Gang of 60."

"It's a new gang," Durbin told CNN. "Some of the old, some of the new."

And responding to Graham's assessment of a "Gang of 60," Durbin said it may need to be even bigger.

"Maybe 70, I don't know," Durbin said. "We need, if we can, to find a path to get this done."

The White House and Republican leadership has been pressing for a group of the congressional "No. 2's" -- the seconds in command in each party in each chamber -- to be the main vehicle for negotiations.

White House chief of staff John Kelly and at times Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen have also been participating in those talks.

But further meetings haven't been scheduled since the government funding votes last week, aides said, and Democrats have long been skeptical the talks are just designed to slow things down.

"I don't think that group was ever intended to work, it was intended to push things past the deadline," said a Democratic senator, speaking anonymously to be candid. "It was intended to slow-roll the work."

What about the GOP House?

Even with the Senate commitment, there was no such indication from the House -- leaving senators relying on hope that the lower chamber could follow suit should senators pass a bill.

One influential House conservative, Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, said the House should pass something "as conservative as it possibly can be" and then send it back to the Senate.

"Hopefully (then) go to conference and find a compromise that we can send to the President's desk that represents the will of the people," Meadows told CNN. "But it needs to start here -- it can't start in the Senate."

Immigration advocacy groups and supporters immediately criticized Democrats for giving up too easily.

"This simply kicks the can down the road with no assurance that we will protect Dreamers from deportation or fight Republican attempts to curtail or eliminate legal immigration," said Illinois Democrat Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a longtime immigration advocate, in a statement. "I do not see how a vague promise from the Senate Majority Leader about a vague policy to be voted on in the future helps the Dreamers or maximizes leverage."

White House role

And immediately after the vote to break the impasse on funding, six Republican senators including several hardliners traveled to the White House to meet on the Issue with Trump.

They said the White House wanted their ideas on the four areas the President has identified as his priorities for this deal -- DACA, border security, cutting family-based migration and ending the diversity visa lottery.

"We were just talking about all the issues the President identified," Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said of the meeting. "Different ideas about how to address them in creative ways."

The White House did invite two Democrats to meet with the President Monday afternoon, Sens. Joe Manchin and Doug Jones. Both come from deeply red states and have not been involved in immigration policy discussions.

One Republican who was part of the Gang of Six, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, expressed frustration with any partisan conversations.

"I'm not doing anymore immigration negotiations with just Republicans, that's fruitless," Flake told CNN on Saturday. He repeatedly criticized the President for changing his mind, and had pushed McConnell in multiple meetings over the weekend to commit to move regardless of Trump's approval at the time.

"if we can get an agreement with the White House, that's great. I'm not holding my breath," he added.

Asked Monday what his advice for Trump was, Graham implored the President to refrain from blowing up talks.

"Be constructive, just be constructive," Graham said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 314710

Reported Deaths: 7254
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21646260
Hinds20369416
Harrison17949309
Rankin13643278
Jackson13450246
Madison10113217
Lee9986174
Jones8384163
Forrest7689152
Lauderdale7198240
Lowndes6403148
Lamar623686
Lafayette6203119
Washington5341134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462998
Panola4596107
Pearl River4519146
Marshall4450103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420872
Monroe4115133
Union411176
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3969110
Hancock379586
Leflore3498125
Sunflower336290
Tate334784
Pike3327105
Scott316274
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311770
Itawamba300577
Copiah297465
Coahoma295579
Simpson295388
Tippah288768
Adams286982
Prentiss280060
Marion269380
Leake268473
Wayne262841
Grenada261587
Covington259881
George248148
Newton246862
Winston227581
Tishomingo227067
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw208057
Holmes189174
Clay185554
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178941
Clarke178080
Calhoun170932
Yalobusha164638
Smith162534
Walthall134245
Greene130633
Lawrence128724
Montgomery127142
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton100025
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83923
Quitman81116
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67531
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 539829

Reported Deaths: 11038
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson798271529
Mobile41261809
Madison35132506
Tuscaloosa25915455
Shelby25294249
Montgomery24705593
Baldwin21392310
Lee15987172
Calhoun14569319
Morgan14422280
Etowah13918353
Marshall12275225
Houston10641282
Elmore10147206
Limestone10065151
St. Clair9946245
Cullman9761194
Lauderdale9457243
DeKalb8865188
Talladega8339176
Walker7260278
Autauga7001108
Jackson6836112
Blount6771139
Colbert6320135
Coffee5578118
Dale4876113
Russell445138
Chilton4369113
Franklin426282
Covington4138118
Tallapoosa4044153
Escambia394777
Chambers3590123
Dallas3568153
Clarke351461
Marion3137101
Pike311977
Lawrence302698
Winston275773
Bibb264564
Geneva254078
Marengo249665
Pickens234862
Barbour232056
Hale223978
Butler219069
Fayette212662
Henry189643
Cherokee184645
Randolph182442
Monroe178141
Washington167739
Macon161150
Clay157157
Crenshaw153557
Cleburne149641
Lamar143236
Lowndes140553
Wilcox127430
Bullock123242
Conecuh110829
Coosa109228
Perry107826
Sumter104932
Greene92634
Choctaw61024
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