Immigration Debate To Start As A Jump Ball In The Senate

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is launching an unpredictable process Monday, affording lawmakers the chance to bring any ideas to the floor. “Whoever gets to 60 [votes] wins,” he said

Led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., senators will begin debate on immigration legislation on Monday. It’s anyone’s guess what the outcome will be.

The Senate is set to start debate Monday afternoon on immigration, launching an unusual process that could lead to a bipartisan immigration fix — or leave Congress with no solution for the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who stand to lose legal protections by March 5.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will open the unpredictable path with a Senate vote on unrelated legislation. The goal is for the Senate to vote on immigration proposals and amendments from every corner of the political spectrum. Anything that can get 60 votes will pass, everything else will fall by the wayside.

“Whoever gets to 60 wins,” McConnell told reporters at a news conference on Feb. 6. He added, “There’s no secret plan here to try to push this in any direction. The Senate is going to work its will, and I hope that we will end up passing something.”

Many in Congress have been craving such an open debate because it will give senators to a chance to put their concepts and proposals to the ultimate legislative test. The plan carries a significant political risk that none of the ideas will have enough votes to pass, leaving Congress unable to fulfill their pledge to protect the roughly 700,000 people enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. The Trump administration’s decision to end DACA, which offers protections for immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, is currently caught in a court battle.

“We’re going to have something in the Senate that we haven’t had in a while,” said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. “It’s a real debate on an issue where we really don’t know what the outcome is going to be.”

The outcome is particularly uncertain because the Senate debate is just the start of a longer process of passing an immigration package. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has not yet said how the House will proceed beyond promising to vote on an immigration bill, so long as it has the support of President Trump.

That promise has Democrats and other critics worried that the House could block whatever the Senate is able to pass. Ryan addressed those critics last week, telling reporters that he plans to hold a vote on immigration.

“To anyone who doubts my intention to solve this problem and bring up a DACA and immigration reform bill, do not,” Ryan said. “We will bring a solution to the floor, one the president will sign.”

The White House has not weighed in on any of the legislative options, but Trump has insisted that any immigration bill also include funding for a wall along U.S. border with Mexico.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit

Subscribe to Today in Houston

Fill out the form below to subscribe our new daily editorial newsletter from the HPM Newsroom.

* required