Immigration state of play: Senate gets ready to vote

The bipartisan deal has eme...

Posted: Feb. 15, 2018 1:57 PM
Updated: Feb. 15, 2018 1:58 PM

The bipartisan deal has emerged, but doesn't yet have 60 votes. And it's not just Republicans -- a handful of Democrats are still on the fence, senators and aides say.

All the while, the White House and conservative Republicans are doing everything in their power, both publicly and privately, to undercut the compromise proposal. To put it plainly, even if the bipartisan deal gets the votes, it hardly appears to be the answer.

As one senior GOP aide put it: "This deal works if Barack Obama is president, not Donald Trump. They need to come our way, we don't need to go their way."

Bottom line: This is the day on DACA in the Senate. If the bipartisan proposal has life, it will play out on the floor Thursday. But simple fact remains: life in the Senate doesn't mean a pathway to the President's desk ...

Does a plan exist that can get 60 votes: Not yet.

What to watch today:

- First Senate votes on cloture for amendments, timing TBD.

- Speaker Paul Ryan press conference, where he could join the Trump administration in trying to put a stake in the heart of the bipartisan deal.

How this is all going to work:

The first Senate votes of this entire debate should come Thursday (it's the Senate, so they need everyone to agree to have them, but that is expected to happen.)

- These will be cloture votes on four amendments.

- They will each have a 60-vote threshold.

- If any one of the amendments receives 60 votes and cloture is invoked, that amendment will then be open for other amendments.

- If an amendment doesn't receive 60 votes, the Senate will immediately move onto the next one in the queue.

Got it? OK, probably not. Here's an easier explanation.

There are four amendments. They need 60 votes to advance. This is the order they will be voted on:

- Coons-McCain bipartisan proposal (this does NOT have 60 votes, will not move forward)

- Toomey on sanctuary cities (this does NOT have 60 votes, will not move forward)

- Rounds-Collins (THIS IS THE BIPARTISAN PROPOSAL -- and will be THE vote to watch)

- Grassley-Cornyn (this is the White House proposal and does NOT have 60 votes, and barring some sudden change, will not move forward.

The order:

The order of these votes was the subject of extensive behind-the-scenes debate throughout the day Wednesday. Democrats (and some Republicans) wanted the Grassley proposal to be voted on before the bipartisan proposal, in order to take it off the table (because it lacks 60 votes) and create a "last chance"-type moment on the bipartisan bill. That effort obviously did not prevail. "McConnell said he'd allow a free and open debate, not let the minority dictate when each vote would occur," one GOP aide told me with a grin.

Where the votes stand:

There are eight Republican co-sponsors of the bipartisan plan. If -- and this is a big if -- every Democrat gets behind the proposal, 11 Republicans will be needed to get it across the 60-vote threshold. As of now, sources tell me, they aren't there.

"There's a pretty good chance we don't actually know whether we've got it locked in til it's time to vote -- just a lot of folks that could go either way," one aide directly involved in the process told me this morning.

The bipartisan deal

The product of weeks of negotiations -- and several iterations of drafts and language -- the final proposal was finally released late Wednesday night.

Key components:

- 10- to 12-year pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million

- $25 billion in a border security trust fund

- Restricts parents from being sponsored for citizenship by their US citizen children if that child gained citizenship through the pathway created in the bill or if they brought the child to the US illegally

- Does not touch the diversity visa program

More on all of this from Tal Kopan, Lauren Fox and Ted Barrett here.

How does the Trump administration feel about the bipartisan proposal:

Well, just before 1 a.m. Thursday morning, President Donald Trump's Homeland Security Department's press operation sent out a 1,592 word opposition document ripping into the proposal, piece by piece.

To make this as clear as possible: the administration has done everything in its power to nuke any potential bipartisan proposal that has started to form. Whether it's McCain-Coons, or Bennet-Gardner (a bill co-written by the NRSC chair!), or the latest proposal, the White House and DHS has done a full court press, with their allies on the Hill, to kill them off. Why? I laid this out in Wednesday's note, but the bottom line is they believe they've made their compromise on pathway. And don't want to move anymore.

More details here on what's been happening behind the scenes from Republicans trying to sink the bipartisan deal here, from Lauren Fox and me.

Keep an eye on this today:

Ryan's press conference. With the White House doing everything but officially threatening a veto, and Senate Republicans repeatedly saying the bill has no future, Ryan could really solidify that by saying today he would not put the bipartisan proposal on the floor if it made it through the Senate.

Would he do that? Unlikely -- not his style to get ahead and things and aides have made clear he wants to see everything play out. But as CNN's Deirdre Walsh lays out extremely well (via her ask of the key question to Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows Wednesday), the pressure on him is building.

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