It was a rough day for immigration reform on Capitol Hill — to say the least.
Despite initial concern from both Democrats and Republicans in reaching some sort of bipartisan deal on the issue, four separate bills were offered in the Senate Thursday and all four fell flat on their face on the floor; two “deals” never even made it out of a debate.
According to Roll Call, not one of the four bills – McCain-Coons, Toomey, King-Rounds, and one put forth by Sen. Chuck Grassley and supported by the White House – commanded more than 54 “yes” votes.
Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) and Sen. Chris Coons’ (D-DE) bill – promoted as a “moderate” reform measure – never made it out of a debate. The Senate was powerless to reach the 60-vote threshold to invoke cloture on a deal that would have given “conditional permanent residence to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program,” in return for a paltry $110 million annual grant for increased border security. The grant specifically excluded any funding for construction of a wall on the Southern border.
Sen. Pat Toomey’s proposed that the United States cut off funding for “sanctuary cities,” and “sanctuary states,” like California until those cities and states agreed to share current information with Federal immigration authorities, also failed to make it to the floor. Fifty-four Senators voted to put that bill to a full Senate vote, but Toomey was unable to secure any bipartisan support for his measure, and it died in debate.
The final two proposals were dueling agreements on both DACA and the border wall – one from the White House and one from a small group of “Common Sense” moderate Senators led by Sen. Angus King (I-ME) and Republican Sen. Mike Rounds. Although the bill, which traded a “path to citizenship” for DACA recipients for border enforcement (and even $25 billion for “southern border security construction projects“) but included a conditional amnesty for DACA parents, was popular among members of both parties, only 54 Senators ultimately voted for the bill.
The White House called King-Rounds a “blanket amnesty,” and refused to take part in the group’s negotiations, despite getting nearly everything it wanted in the bill, albeit on a more protracted timeline than Trump initially desired.
The problem? The bill contains a provision that continues to allow so-called “chain migration,” something the White House says it definitely will not support – something the “Common Sense” coalition knew long before they ever brought their bill to the floor, dooming themselves to failure from the start (even though coalition member Lindsey Graham later blamed the White House for being unreasonable).
The White House bill, introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley, received much the same approach. That bill included a “path to citizenship” for DACA recipients conditioned on $25 billion in financial support for a border wall. Although Grassley’s bill did make it to the floor, even Republicans were reticent to vote for the deal, and it failed, 39-60.
This means it’s likely back to the drawing board for both parties, who have promised their respective coalitions action on immigration reform, but the White House isn’t likely to get a better deal than King-Rounds. And although the White House wants to limit paths to citizenship to DACA recipients only, Democrats have said they won’t pass a bill that doesn’t include a more expansive amnesty grant and preserves chain migration.
That leaves mostly Democrats in a lurch; the GOP agreed to make a good faith effort on immigration reform, and the Trump admin has drawn clear lines for its and the party’s participation. Democrats need to reach a deal on DACA or see their base breakdown beneath them just ahead of midterm elections.
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