Republican Leaders Say Senate Immigration Debate May End Thursday

Washington (CNN) Senate Republicans on Monday night declared they would only allow immigration to be on the Senate floor for one week — pressuring Democrats to show their hand as the Senate inched closer to opening its debate.

Senators took a key step toward opening debate on immigration Monday evening, kicking off an exercise with little modern precedent that could affect millions of lawful and undocumented immigrants. The procedural vote, which passed 97-1, allows the Senate to next vote to officially open debate — a vote expected on Tuesday.

But Senate Republican leadership said Democrats would have to act fast if they wanted to offer proposals.

“This is Sen. (Dick) Durbin and Democrats’ opportunity and so far they kind of seem to be a little confused about what they’re planning on doing — but they better get it done quick because it’s this week or not at all,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn.

“We need to get it wrapped up by Thursday,” Cornyn said.

Just an hour previous, Cornyn had told reporters the opposite, saying: “We could do it this week if there is cooperation. If there is not, it might take longer.”

A GOP leadership aide said Republicans want to light a fire under Democrats and get them to release their amendments. GOP leaders are worried Democrats want to drag out the debate for “weeks and weeks.”

“That’s the plan,” said GOP leadership member Sen. John Barrasso when asked if this would be finished this week. He added that “Democrats have been waiting for this for a long time. They were promised we’d go to the floor with this and it’s now on the floor.”

Aides and lawmakers were unsure of any agreements on proceeding expeditiously. Without unanimous agreement from all senators, each amendment could take hours to consider. It was also unclear how far afield amendments would get, and if senators would be able to offer proposals on any provision of immigration or just the four pillars being proposed by President Donald Trump: border security, broadly defined to included physical security and enforcement powers; ending the diversity visa lottery; curtailing family-based migration; and a permanent solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the policy that allowed undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children to stay in the country and that Trump has decided to end.

By Tal Kopan for CNN POLITICS
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