Republican Senators Look to Get Out Front on Immigration

Dreamers protest outside of the Capitol calling for passage of the Dream Act as Congress works to find a way to end the government shutdown on Sunday evening, Jan. 21, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A coalition of Senate Republicans huddled at the White House on Monday to try to persuade the administration to publicly back a new bill to address the pending expiration of a program that covers immigrants who come to the country as children, according to lawmakers and aides.

President Donald Trump met with six Senate Republicans on Monday about the next steps in the push for an immigration overhaul bill, according to a senior White House official.

The group included Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, two Trump allies with whom he has worked before on immigration issues. Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, and Sens. Tom Tillis of North Carolina and James Lankford of Oklahoma also attended.

Asked if the White House and the six senators planned to roll out DACA legislation in the next few days, the senior official declined to comment, adding the administration has been “pretty clear” about what it wants on that issue and other immigration matters.

Details of the legislation could be released as early as Monday, sources said. The product is a result of ongoing meetings among only GOP members.

The battle over the future of the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals remains a key flashpoint in discussions over how to fund the government. Democrats agreed to support a three-week stopgap measure on Monday after a promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to put an immigration bill on the chamber floor should the government remain open past Feb. 8.

The introduction of new DACA legislation from the more conservative wing of the conference could complicate the ongoing negotiations between moderate-leaning Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

Schumer: GOP Majority Has 17 Days to Reach Deal on DACA

The plan, according to aides and lawmakers, is to obtain public support from Trump for the bill, forcing Senate Republican leadership to incorporate aspects of it in whatever final bipartisan measure reaches the floor.

One GOP senator said there is a recognition that the House cannot pass a DACA bill without the approval of Trump. The lawmaker noted that should the president back this new proposal, it would be necessary to combine it with the ongoing negotiations on a separate measure from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin.

Some Republicans say they would prefer to come up with a solution in the Senate, then present it to Trump once there is broad support from both sides of the aisle.

“We want to produce a bill that President Trump can sign,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said. “It would be good to have his input, but let the Senate write the bill and take it to him.”

John T. Bennett contributed to this report.

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