Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell teed up a pivotal immigration debate for consideration next week early Friday morning, keeping a promise as soon as the Senate voted to end a government shutdown.
The move to hold an unpredictable Senate debate next week fulfills the promise McConnell made on the Senate floor to end the last government shutdown in mid-January, when he pledged to hold a neutral debate on the immigration issue that was "fair to all sides."
McConnell moved on the Senate floor to vote to open debate on the bill Monday evening. The bill McConnell chose was unrelated to immigration, after he had said he planned to use a separate bill for the debate..
That now sets up a chance for both sides to offer amendments that will compete for 60 votes -- the threshold to advance legislation in the Senate. If a proposal can garner 60 votes, it will pass the Senate but face an uncertain fate in the future.
The move still depends on the House, though, which first needs to vote to pass the budget deal negotiated in the Senate and fund the government. The bill was expected to pass, but vote counts remained unclear Friday morning. The House was set to vote in the early morning hours.
Different groups are working to prepare legislation for the immigration effort, including conservatives who are working on a legislative version of President Donald Trump's proposed framework and a group of bipartisan senators who have been meeting nearly daily to try to reach agreement on the issue. Trump has proposed giving 1.8 million young undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship in exchange for $25 billion for his long-promised border wall and a host of other strict immigration reforms.
As she was leaving the Senate floor Friday night after the Senate voted to pass a budget deal and fund government into March, Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins was optimistic about the preparedness of the bipartisan group she was been leading for the all-Senate debate.
"We'll be ready," she told reporters.