Slow Start: The Senate DACA Immigration Debate Is Going Nowhere Fast

The freewheeling, open process that was expected to define this week’s high stakes immigration debate in the Senate is off to a slow start. On Tuesday morning, the chamber did what it does best—that is, not much.

“The clock is ticking, but the debate has yet to begin,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon.

Hampered by a 30-hour procedural requirement that requires bipartisan support to be waived, senators have not taken any votes on immigration proposals yet. That’s because Democrats and Republicans have not come to an agreement over which amendment to consider first. And few of the various groups who are workshopping different plans to address the DACA issue have actually offered amendments.

“Our colleagues will have to actually introduce their own amendments rather than just talk about them,” said McConnell.

Lawmakers are hoping to pass a bill to protect nearly 700,000 unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the United States as children in the next few days. Republican leaders argue that members have had ample time to prepare for the debate, and that a couple of days should be sufficient to work out a solution. “There is no reason why we should not reach a bipartisan solution this week,” McConnell said Tuesday morning. But “one week” in Senate time translates to just three days in reality—leadership is hoping to wrap things up by Thursday, when Congress will head home for a week-long break.

McConnell asked for unanimous consent to hold a 2:15 p.m. vote on one of the few amendments which have been introduced: Sen. Pat Toomey’s plan, which would address sanctuary cities (and is a non-starter for Democrats). McConnell would then allow a follow-up vote on an amendment of the Democrats’ choosing.

But Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer objected to McConnell’s request, saying that Toomey’s amendment would not address DACA and such a vote would start the debate “off on the wrong foot.”

Schumer suggested instead that the body take a vote on a Republican immigration bill that is based on President Donald Trump’s framework. That bill is not expected to garner the 60 votes required for passage in the Senate, despite claims from its supporters that it is the only proposal that could pass the immigration hawks in the House and earn a signature from Trump. Schumer also called for a vote on a compromise bill introduced by Sens. Chris Coons and John McCain.

No agreement was reached before the Senate recessed for lunch.

So far only one thing is clear: As McConnell observed, if lawmakers seriously want to reach an agreement in just a few days, they “need to get moving.”

This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard


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