Senate blocks multiple immigration plans, stalling progress toward protections for young immigrants

Key Points
  • The Senate blocks all four immigration-related amendments before it Thursday.
  • It rejects a bipartisan plan to protect young undocumented immigrants and a GOP measure favored by President Donald Trump.
  • It is unclear how the Senate will proceed on immigration now.
Four bipartisan immigration proposals fail in Senate

The Senate blocked multiple immigration proposals on Thursday afternoon, leaving a contentious debate on how best to protect young immigrants from deportation and boost border security measures no closer to a resolution.

In a rebuke, a measure favored by President Donald Trump got the fewest votes of all four immigration-related amendments before the Senate on Thursday. It failed to advance by a 60 to 39 margin.

The amendments' failure leaves the chamber no closer to enshrining legal protections for up to 1.8 million immigrants either protected by an Obama-era program or eligible for it. It leaves doubts about any clear path for Congress to reach an immigration agreement that Trump will sign.

Senators' next move was unclear as of Thursday afternoon. The House could pass its own Republican immigration bill in the coming weeks, which would likely fail in the Senate.

"Even though this week has been squandered, this does not have to be the end of our efforts to resolve these matters," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell following the votes. He said senators can pass an immigration bill if they "get serious about finding a solution that can actually become law."

Many Democrats appear reluctant to yield concessions to Trump and anger their energized liberal base. On the other hand, Trump has held fast to limits on legal immigration as he tries to appease the voters who put him into the White House as he pledged to crack down on immigration.

McConnell contended that Trump went "clearly more than halfway to meet the Democrats" on immigration.

Trump ended the DACA program with an original March 5 phase out date. It will likely last past that deadline amid pending lawsuits.

"This crisis isn't going away, and I won't rest until Dreamers and their families have the future in America that they deserve," Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in a statement.

Here are the four proposals that failed. The Senate was voting to shorten debate on the measures and effectively move ahead with them, and needed 60 votes to advance.

  • A narrow plan put forth by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Chris Coons, D-Del., got 52 votes for as opposed to 47 votes against. McCain was not present for the votes as he fights brain cancer. The plan included protections for immigrants and border security funding, but not an overhaul of the immigration system.
  • The Senate then voted not to advance a proposal from Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., to pull funding from so-called sanctuary cities. It got 54 votes of support, while 45 senators opposed it.
  • The chamber rejected a bipartisan plan originally sponsored by Sens. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and Angus King, I-Maine. Fifty-four senators backed it, while 45 voted against it. It would have offered a pathway to citizenship for immigrants protected by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and those who were eligible but did not apply. It would limit family-based visas, fund Trump's proposed border wall or other border security and instruct Immigration and Customs Enforcement to turn its focus away from immigrants without criminal records.
  • Finally, the chamber shot down Trump's favored plan, proposed by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. Only 39 lawmakers voted for it, while 60 voted against it. The Grassley bill aimed to capture Trump's four immigration demands: shielding up to 1.8 million young immigrants and offering a path to citizenship, funding border security, limiting extended family migration and ending the diversity visa "lottery." Democrats opposed its limits on legal immigration.

Earlier Thursday, the Trump administration repeatedly criticized the bipartisan plan and put its weight behind the Grassley proposal.

In a statement following the votes, Senate Democratic leader called it proof that Trump's plan "will never become law." Schumer added: "If he would stop torpedoing bipartisan efforts, a good bill would pass."

Schumer tweet

Trump has rejected multiple bipartisan proposals put before him. It has prompted bipartisan senators to express frustration about the difficulty of negotiating with the White House on immigration.

Trump weighed in on Twitter on Thursday afternoon, calling the bipartisan plan a "total catastrophe." He contended that backing it would be a vote AGAINST law enforcement, and a vote FOR open borders." He urged Democrats to support the Grassley bill.

Every Democrat opposed it.

— Correction: This story was updated to reflect that Pat Toomey is a senator from Pennsylvania.

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