Unable to find an acceptable middle ground on the politically explosive issue of immigration, and the future of well over a million illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” Senators of both parties on Thursday voted to filibuster a pair of plans from each side, as a high profile legislative effort achieved only failure.
“This is it. This is your last chance to vote for a path to citizenship,” said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), just before the last of four votes, as the Senate failed to find a deal on DACA, with a March 5 deadline for action less than three weeks away.
“Our interest was to try and find some common ground,” said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD), who helped forge a bipartisan plan. “Our goal is to give the President what he’s asked for.”
But the President opposed both bipartisan efforts, as most Democrats returned the favor on a GOP plan that mirrored Mr. Trump’s DACA plan – leaving the Senate with nothing to show for their work on immigration.
“It looks like demagogues on the left and the right win again on immigration,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who found himself on the sharp end of quotes from senior White House officials over his support for bipartisan DACA efforts.
“It’s an unfinished project,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) right after the vote. “At the end of the day, the problem is still there; you can’t just stop and walk away from it.”
Senators had advertised this debate as one that would be open and freewheeling. Instead, it turned into four days of finger pointing, with little in the way of actual legislating on the Senate floor.
The Senate held four consecutive procedural votes on four different proposals Thursday afternoon – two bipartisan plans, and two from Republicans – but none of them garnered the needed 60 votes to force an end to debate.
In the first vote, the Senate fell short of the 60 vote threshold in a 52-47 vote on a bipartisan plan backed by Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). That allowed a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers,” but no money for the President’s border wall.
A second plan from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), which only dealt with sanctuary cities, was 13 votes short of 60, on a vote of
The Senate then fell short on the main bipartisan effort, which would have funded Mr. Trump’s $25 billion request for border security, in exchange for a 10-12 year path to citizenship.
It received 54 votes – 6 shy of the 60 needed to force a final vote.
That left only a nearly $100 billion plan put together by Senate Republicans, which had the strong support of the President.
“There is only one bill that has a chance to pass the House of Representatives, and a chance to get the President’s signature,” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR).
But as with other plans, there weren’t enough votes to support that either, leaving the Senate in gridlock, unable to advance any legislation on DACA and Dreamers. In fact, that plan backed by the President didn’t get a majority, only mustering 39 votes, with 60 voting against.
13 Republicans voted against the Trump plan, while three Democrats broke ranks to support it, raising obvious questions about the President’s demand that this plan be what lands on his desk for a signature.
The three Democrats who back the President were Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana.
Here is the list of Republicans who went against Mr. Trump:
As Senators left the floor following the immigration votes, a number of GOP Senators predicted that this was not the end of the fight on DACA.
“Back to square two,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA). “Not square one – we just finished square one.”