Feb. 12 (UPI) — The U.S. Senate began debate Monday afternoon on immigration, including protection of
800,000 undocumented young immigrants who could face deportation on March 5.
The Senate conveyed at 3 p.m. to proceed on H.R.2579, the vehicle for immigration legislation.
Senators will be able to introduce an unlimited number of amendments in attempts by the Republicans and Democrats for bipartisan solution to the immigration debate.
“I expect that virtually every issue under the sun will come up during this floor debate and that’s fine,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told reporters last week. “That’s the way the Senate always used to operate, that is a good way to legislate.”
The Republicans need help to pass legislation from Democrats because they hold only a 51-49 edge and 60 votes are necessary for passage.
“Whoever gets to 60 wins,” McConnell told reporters at a news conference last week. “There’s no secret plan here to try to push this in any direction. The Senate is going to work its will, and I hope that we will end up passing something.”
McConnell promised to bring legislation to the floor to win support from Senate Democrats on a short-term spending bill last month ending a three-day government shutdown. The 2 1/2-week stop gap expired but the Senate and the House agreed on a two-year budget Thursday without tackling immigration. The House approved the legislation and President Donald Trump signed the bill Friday after the government was shut down for 5-1/2 hours.
“I think that Mitch McConnell has been a champ to say we’re gonna do the process, we’re gonna let amendments be offered, and whatever gets 60 votes will be what passes,” Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said last week.
More than two dozen senators have been working on bipartisan legislation.
“If we’re gonna do this in this short period of time, this can’t be viewed as comprehensive immigration reform,” Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said last week following a working group meeting. “It’s got to be a more narrow field, and then we can all talk about comprehensive immigration.”
But Trump and conservative Republicans have insisted that any immigration bill also include funding for a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, as well as ending “chain family migration” and the diversity visa lottery program.
Several Republican senators plan to introduce the Secure and Succeed Act that mirrors Trump’s plan that includes $25 billion for border security and an opportunity for approximately 1.8 million young illegal immigrants to earn citizenship
“President Trump has been very clear on what he will sign into law, and this is it,” Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., said in a statement. “This is a great deal and the only solution that fully addresses the four pillars in the president’s framework. Now it is up to Republicans and Democrats in both chambers.”
Last September, Trump signed an executive order that rescinds an order by former President Barack Obama in 2012 to protect the Dreamers from deportation, called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. He gave Congress until March to pass legislation.
“We have our military taken care of, we start very serious DACA talks today,” Trump said Monday during an event on infrastructure at the White House. “We are — I can tell you, speaking for the Republican party, we love to do DACA. We want border security.”
The House only needs a majority to approve legislation but House Speaker Paul Ryan said a House bill needs to address the four pillars of reform that Trump wants. And he hasn’t made a promise to Democrats to bring immigration to the floor.
“To anyone who doubts my intention to solve this problem and bring up a DACA and immigration reform bill, do not,” Ryan said last week to reporters. “We will bring a solution to the floor, one the president will sign.”