Gardner cosponsors bipartisan immigration deal ahead of votes, but White House opposes its passage

Senate will vote Thurs.; Bennet likely to support
Gardner cosponsors bipartisan immigration deal ahead of votes, but White House opposes its passage
Posted at 12:37 PM, Feb 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-15 15:27:33-05

DENVER – The U.S. Senate is expected to vote Thursday afternoon on four immigration proposals, and Colorado’s senators are expected to support a bipartisan deal that contains many of the parameters they put forth in their own proposal Wednesday.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., is one of the original cosponsors of the measure, which was in the works for weeks in sessions led by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Manchin, D-W.V.

The proposal is supported by at least 16 senators from both parties, including eight Republicans. Any immigration deal will need 60 votes to pass the Senate, and Republicans currently hold a 51-49 majority, though Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has been absent while undergoing cancer treatment.

But if all Democrats support the measure and a few more Republicans come on board, it could reach the 60-vote threshold.

The new proposal, which is the product of concessions from both parties, is similar to the one unveiled Wednesday by Gardner and his fellow Colorado senator, Democrat Michael Bennet.

It would grant a 12-year path to citizenship for Dreamers and a 10-year path for those already signed up under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Those pathways have the potential to grant citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

It also, like the Gardner-Bennet proposal, would provide $25 billion for a border wall and other security measures over the next decade—another of President Trump’s requests. Both the border wall money and the pathway to citizenship are part of the asks from the White House.

But the bipartisan proposal differs greatly from Trump’s proposal, which is also one of the four measures the Senate will vote on Thursday and whose lead sponsor is Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

The bipartisan measure cosponsored by Gardner would stop Dreamers from being able to sponsor their parents for citizenship—but that differs from the proposal by the White House and Senate conservatives, who want to prevent all legal immigrants from being able to sponsor their parents or siblings for citizenship.

It also makes no changes to the “visa lottery” program, which grants about 55,000 people a year from various countries visas. The White House and conservatives want to end the program and instead give those visas to people based on their job and education skills.

“This legislation addresses some of the largest challenges our broken immigration system faces, including a major boost to border security, and I urge members on both sides of the aisle that want a solution to support our bipartisan approach,” Gardner said in a statement Wednesday night about his cosponsoring of the bill.

The bipartisan proposal is also the measure Bennet is most-likely to support, aides told Denver7 Thursday.

But Trump and the White House made it clear Thursday they didn’t want the Senate to pass the bipartisan proposal despite it containing many of their asks.

The White House said the measure was a “dangerous policy that will harm the nation,” singling out a provision it said would “produce a flood of new illegal immigration” ahead of a specified enforcement date. The statement also said that the bipartisan proposal “fails to deliver on the clear promise the administration has made to the American people” and that advisers would tell the president to veto the measure should it reach his desk.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the president has “stood in the way” of every proposal with a chance of becoming law, and said, “The American people will blame President Trump and no one else for the failure to protect Dreamers.”

But his counterpart, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that Democrats didn’t offer “a single proposal that gives us a realistic chance to make law” and suggested they all back the president’s proposal.

The Department of Homeland Security has also chimed in on the debate, saying the bipartisan measure would mean “the end of immigration enforcement in America.” That came after the agency said the Gardner-Bennet proposal “violates the [president’s] framework, would legalize unlimited numbers through chain migration, and leaves deadly loopholes intact.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is among the cosponsors of the bipartisan measure, took issue with the agency’s statements, saying it was “acting more like a political organization intent on poisoning the well” rather than offering advice or “constructive criticism.”

Though it’s questionable whether any of the proposals will be able to reach the 60-vote threshold, the president’s measure and the bipartisan measure appear the most likely to pass.

There is another moderate measure that will be voted on from McCain and Delaware Democratic Sen. Chris Coons that doesn’t contain a pathway for citizenship for Dreamers or raise border security appropriations money, and another that would block federal grant money to so-called “sanctuary cities.”

But both of those measures appear highly unlikely to garner enough votes from either side. (By 1:30 p.m. MT, both the measures failed to garner enough votes to proceed to a final vote.)

Should the Senate pass one of the measures, they will face high scrutiny in the House, where most Republicans have committed to passing a bill in line with the White House’s demands and Democrats have been hesitant to make concessions on border security and legal immigration measures, saying Trump was holding DACA hostage by forcing Congress to include broader immigration measures in any bill.

Bennet and Gardner had already proposed a bipartisan agreement to Trump in January after months of work with a different bipartisan panel of senators, but the president rejected it amid his shifting stance on immigration. Trump said last September he was ending DACA as of March 5 and urged Congress to come up with a bipartisan solution, which he said he would sign should one reach his desk. That decision by Trump is now also being held up by two federal court injunctions.

Trump tweeted again around 12:25 p.m. MT about the deal, saying the bipartisan measure "would be a total catastrophe" and citing the DHS comments.

"Voting for this amendment would be a vote AGAINST law enforcement, and a vote FOR open borders," he said. "If Dems are actually serious about DACA, they should support the Grassley bill!"

It's unclear what Trump meant by his "open borders" comment.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.