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Senate will take up immigration reform next week

by Susan Ferrechio | 

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Senate Republican leaders said they plan to bring an immigration reform measure to the floor next week but have not indicated the specifics of the legislation.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, told the Washington Examiner lawmakers will debate immigration next week as long as Congress is able to clear a must-pass spending bill by a Feb. 8 deadline.

“As long as we are open,” Cornyn said.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., last month promised to bring an immigration bill to the floor in February pending the passage of this week’s spending bill, which is likely to be a stop-gap measure that funds the government until late March.

Democrats and Republicans are no closer to an agreement on immigration, Cornyn said Monday, and the debate next week is likely to include a number of different proposals.

The immigration accord must include a way to protect so-called “Dreamers” from deportation in exchange for border security, modifications to chain migration, and an end to the visa lottery system, Republicans say.

Democrats are pushing legislation that would leave out the chain migration and visa lottery changes.

A small, bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House and Senate have introduced legislation that includes only the Dreamer protection and border security, but that measure is unlikely to pass muster with President Trump, who said last week he wants the other provisions included.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Chris Coons, D-Del., introduced the slimmed down immigration bill in the Senate Monday, but some Republicans said it would need to include more than just border security and protections for Dreamers, who came to the United States illegally as children.

“It would probably have to be more robust,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said of the McCain-Coons legislation.

A spokesman for Cornyn told the Washington Examiner that immigration is not officially on the calendar for next week and noted McConnell has not made an official announcement about the agenda.

The Senate and House are not in session the third week of February.

While both parties are eager to avoid a showdown over spending, the two sides have not agreed to a deal on the spending bill that must pass this week. Cornyn said McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., are in talks to find an agreement. Cornyn said the Senate is also waiting for the House to pass the measure as early as Tuesday.

Last week, House GOP leaders said they may bring up a bill that funds the government until March 23, but a spokeswoman for the House Appropriations Committee said Monday a measure has not been finalized.

House Republicans will meet Monday night on spending.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said the measure could include additional funding for disaster relief and community health centers, while Cornyn said it could include a provision to raise the nation’s borrowing limit, which Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said would be exhausted by March.

“There’s a chance” that the debt ceiling would be added, Cornyn said.

The Senate will take up a House-passed defense spending bill this week to put pressure on Democrats, who have resisted backing it because they want leverage to increase domestic spending.