Senate fails to pass any immigration measure amid White House pressure, despite bipartisan offering

Gardner, Bennet both vote for bipartisan offering
Senate fails to pass any immigration measure amid White House pressure, despite bipartisan offering
Posted at 2:41 PM, Feb 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-15 16:59:57-05

DENVER – The U.S. Senate failed on Thursday to pass procedural hurdles on four separate immigration measures, most of which were aimed at extending citizenship to Dreamers and enhancing security along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The failure of the measures came as little surprise Thursday afternoon after another morning of fighting between the White House, which adamantly opposed any measures that were not in line with its own, and the rest of the Senate.

And in the end, the White House’s proposal, which was sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, garnered the fewest number of votes, with just 39 voting to proceed to a final vote.

A bipartisan solution cosponsored by Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., which some had said was the most-likely of the four to pass, garnered 54 votes.

All of the proposals needed to clear a 60-vote hurdle before they could proceed to final votes. None of them did.

The bipartisan proposal, which was 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 measure differed from the Grassley measure in regards to family-based migration and the visa lottery.

Both Gardner and Bennet supported the bipartisan proposal Thursday despite pushback from the White House against the bill ahead of the votes.

The two other proposals that were voted on—a slim, moderate measure from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and one targeting “sanctuary cities” from Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.—also both failed to clear the procedural votes.

Gardner said after the votes that he voted in line with what the president had requested over the past few months: a bipartisan immigration deal that contains citizenship protections for Dreamers and extra border security measures.

“President Trump has repeatedly stated he wants to address the Dreamer population and increase border security, and the proposals I supported today would have done exactly that,” Gardner said in a statement.

He said he was disheartened by the votes, but that he would continue, along with fellow Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, to push for a permanent solution for Dreamers.

“I’m disappointed we were not able to find a solution this week but that does not mean our work is over,” Gardner said. “I’ll continue to work with Sen. Bennet and my other colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find a solution that can pass the Senate, the House, and ultimately be signed by the president.”

Bennet put the blame on the president for Thursday's failure.

"This is another pitiful example of common sense losing out to dysfunction and polarization. For months, we worked in good faith to reach a principled compromise that protects Dreamers and addresses border security," he said in a statement.

"At every turn, President Trump has undermined our efforts to solve the crisis that he created," Bennet continued. "Today's resounding bipartisan rejection of the president's proposal should lead him to reconsider his extreme position. In the meantime, we must continue to protect Dreamers."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has worked with the two senators on a bipartisan immigration deal over the past few months and sponsored this session’s version of the Dream Act, was unhappy with the decision, blaming extremists like Stephen Miller in the White House, and far-left Democrats, for killing the efforts.

“It looks like demagogues on the left and the right win again on immigration,” Graham tweeted.

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.

Senators are expected to continue work toward a solution in the coming days and weeks, and ahead of the March 5 deadline. After the vote Thursday, McConnell said he'd brought the debate to the floor as he said he would, but added that he was also disappointed.

"I think it's safe to say it was a disappointing week," he said, adding, "Everyone agrees I held up my end of the bargain."