Friday January 18th, 2019 3:03PM

Trump prods Congress amid debate on immigration

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — A high-stakes Senate debate over immigration got off to a halting start Tuesday, with Republican and Democratic leaders immediately at loggerheads over how to move forward and President Donald Trump warning this was the "last chance" to extend protections to "Dreamer" immigrants.

Trump issued the warning in a morning tweet as the Senate opened what was billed as an unusual and open-ended debate on a host of immigration issues. Democrats had pushed for the debate, hopeful they might be able to craft a piece of legislation in real time on the Senate floor — or at least force Republicans on the record on some difficult issues.

But the experiment in legislating didn't go very far.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., began the process by throwing his weight behind legislation based on the president's priorities.

To kick the debate off, McConnell proposed allowing Republicans to bring up an amendment targeting cities that don't fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities, so-called "sanctuary cities." Then, Democrats would bring up legislation of their choosing. Amendments gaining 60 votes would become part of the broader immigration bill.

The Senate's top Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, quickly objected.

"To begin the debate as the Republican leader suggests would be getting off on the wrong foot," Schumer said. "Very partisan."

Schumer wants McConnell to bring up legislation that incorporates President Donald Trump's priorities and a second, much narrower bill from Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Chris Coons, D-Del.

His reasoning: The legislation should address the population of young immigrants that lawmakers from both parties say they want to help, rather than deal with side issues such as punishing sanctuary cities.

McConnell replied: "I'm not trying to dictate to them what they offer. They shouldn't be trying to dictate to us what we offer. We ought to just get started."

The disagreement pushed any immigration-related votes into Wednesday. That gives a group of moderate lawmakers more time to come up with a package that could generate 60 votes in the Senate.

"Until we reach an end there, I still hope that's the vehicle," said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., one of the group's key participants.

Exiting the Senate floor Tuesday evening, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said "things change by the hour" on immigration, but he felt better as the day went on about the prospects of getting a bill passed. He said lawmakers are meeting privately in search of a compromise.

Trump, in an early-morning tweet, said Congress must act now to provide legal protections to young "Dreamer" immigrants.

"Wouldn't it be great if we could finally, after so many years, solve the DACA puzzle," he wrote, adding: "This will be our last chance, there will never be another opportunity! March 5th."

Trump was referring to a deadline he announced last year to end a program protecting young immigrants from deportation, formally known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. But a recent court ruling has rendered that deadline all but meaningless.

In an exchange later Tuesday with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Trump again tried to accuse Democrats of not wanting to fix DACA, but then told the senator he was joking.

"Everybody's in there working hard on it right now. I think we have a chance to do DACA very bipartisan. I think that can happen," he said during a meeting on trade issues with lawmakers at the White House. "And I hope we're going to be able to do that, senator."

One GOP proposal based on principles dictated by the White House would pave a path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million young "Dreamer" immigrants in the U.S., a lure for Democrats that many Republicans oppose.

Trump also wants $25 billion for Trump's border wall with Mexico and other security measures, as well as curbs on legal immigration — a must for many Republicans.

"This proposal has my support, and during this week of fair debate, I believe it deserves the support of every senator who's ready to move beyond making points and actually making a law," McConnell said.

McConnell and other GOP supporters describe the measure as the Senate's best shot of passing a bill that the president will sign, but many Democrats consider some of the proposals, including limiting the relatives that legal immigrants can bring to the U.S., to be non-starters.

Schumer expressed opposition to Trump's sweeping approach, pushing for a more narrow focus.

"Helping the Dreamers become Americans and protecting our borders. That should be the focus of all our energies," Schumer said.

Trump's overall immigration plan, opposed by many Democrats, stands little chance of prevailing because any measure will need 60 votes. That means proposals will need substantial bipartisan support since the GOP majority is 51-49, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has been absent in recent weeks battling cancer.

Still, many Republicans insist that legislation incorporating Trump's priorities is a compromise because it gives up to 1.8 million young immigrants a pathway to citizenship.

"The president's framework is not an opening bid in negotiations. It is a best and final offer," said Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.

In a meeting with sheriffs at the White House, Trump continued to frame the debate in a way that depicts many of the illegal immigrants seeking to enter the U.S. as dangerous criminals.

"We're asking Congress to support our immigration policy that keeps terrorists, drug dealers, criminals and gang members out of our country. We want them out. We don't want them in and right now we're working on DACA, we're working on immigration bills and we're making them tough," Trump said.


Associated Press writers Alan Fram and Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News
© Copyright 2019
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Trump prods Congress amid debate on immigration
Trump is telling Congress it's now or never on immigration as the Senate tries to forge a deal
9:29AM ( 3 minutes ago )
Russia: Deadly plane crash caused by pilots' error on heat
Investigators say that the crash of a Russian passenger plane that killed all 71 people on board may have been caused by the pilots' failure to activate heating for pressure measurement equipment, resulting in flawed speed data
9:15AM ( 17 minutes ago )
Virtual-reality field trips give students advanced adventure
Virtual reality field trips? For schools, it's the next best thing to being there
9:12AM ( 19 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Friend of ex-S. Korean president, Lotte chairman get prison
A confidante accused of manipulating South Korea's former president for personal gain was sentenced to 20 years in prison for bribery and other crimes in a scandal that triggered a presidential impeachment
8:38AM ( 54 minutes ago )
'LOVE' returns: Philadelphia park gets its sculpture back
Robert Indiana's "LOVE" sculpture is returning to its home Tuesday in Philadelphia after undergoing a year of repairs
8:37AM ( 55 minutes ago )
Russia: Plane crash caused by pilots' error on speed data
Investigators say the crash of a Russian passenger plane that killed all 71 people on board may have been caused by the pilots' failure to activate heating for pressure measurement equipment, resulting in flawed speed data
8:35AM ( 57 minutes ago )
AP National News
Danielle Herrington covers Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue
Danielle Herrington is the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover model for 2018, becoming the third black woman to cover the annual issue
7:31AM ( 2 hours ago )
Senate leaders predict a tough time getting immigration deal
Senate's Republican and Democratic leaders say it's going to be tough to broker a successful deal on immigration policy
7:15AM ( 2 hours ago )
10 Things to Know for Today
Among 10 Things to Know: Fiscal conservatives lash out at Republican spending binge; Some win, some lose under Medicare drug plan in Trump budget; Israeli army court closes doors on Palestinian teen's trial
6:28AM ( 3 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
Official's departure adds to strain of vacancies at Justice
The sudden departure of the Justice Department's No. 3 official is adding to the turmoil at an agency that already lacks permanent, politically appointed leaders for many of its most important divisions
7:50AM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: South Africa's ruling party tells Zuma to resign
Leaders of South Africa's ruling ANC party are struggling to remove President Jacob Zuma from office amid media reports that he asked for concessions in exchange for his resignation
4:49AM ( 4 hours ago )
The Latest: Flag bearer worried about cyclone that hit Tonga
Olympic flag bearer Pita Taufatofua is concerned about his home country of Tonga after it was hit by a cyclone that destroyed Parliament House as well as churches and homes
2:47AM ( 6 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Democrats hold Minnesota Senate seat in high-stakes election
Minnesota Democrats have held on to a state Senate seat in a special election, preserving their hopes of retaking the chamber later this year
12:38AM ( 8 hours ago )
Trump's high-spending budget reverses longtime GOP dogma
In spite of longtime GOP deficit dogma, Trump's budget for upcoming fiscal year calls for steep cuts to America's social safety net and mounting spending on military
12:16AM ( 9 hours ago )
Cyclone destroys Parliament House, homes on Tonga, Fiji next
Tonga began cleaning up after a cyclone hit overnight, while some people in Fiji began preparing for the storm to hit them
11:22PM ( 10 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Russia: Deadly plane crash caused by pilots' error on heat
Investigators say that the crash of a Russian passenger plane that killed all 71 people on board may have been caused by the pilots' failure to activate heating for pressure measurement equipment, resulting in flawed speed data
9:15AM ( 17 minutes ago )
Kim dominates for 1st Olympic gold, Hirscher breaks through
Chloe Kim dominated the Olympic women's halfpipe snowboarding final for her first gold medal, while six-time world champion Marcel Hirscher scored his first career victory at the games
9:10AM ( 21 minutes ago )
Erdogan warns Greece, Cyprus over gas search, Aegean islets
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a warning Tuesday to neighboring Greece, Cyprus and international companies exploring for gas in the eastern Mediterranean not to "step out of line" and encroach on Turkey's rights
9:00AM ( 31 minutes ago )
The Latest: Sen. Cotton says there's no debating DACA plan
Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas says President Donald Trump's immigration bill is "not an opening bid" for negotiations with Democrats but the "best and final offer."
8:54AM ( 38 minutes ago )
Palestinian teen goes on trial, Israeli judge bars public
Palestinian teen protest icon goes on trial behind closed doors at Israel military court for slapping soldiers
8:48AM ( 43 minutes ago )