Senate to open debate on issue


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

The Senate will open up a rare, open-ended debate on immigration and the fate of the “Dreamer” immigrants today. But the most influential voice in the conversation may be on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue.

If the aim is to pass a legislative solution soon, President Donald Trump is a crucial and, at times, complicating player. His day-to-day turnabouts on the issues have confounded Democrats and Republicans and led some to urge the White House to minimize his role in the debate for fear he’ll say something that undermines the effort.

Yet his ultimate support will be vital if Congress is to overcome election-year pressures against compromise. No Senate deal is likely to see the light of day in the more conservative House without the president’s blessing and promise to sell compromise to his hard-line base.

Trump, thus far, has balked on that front.

“The Tuesday Trump versus the Thursday Trump, after the base gets to him,” is how Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., a proponent of compromise, describes the president and the impact conservative voters and his hard-right advisers have on him. “I don’t know how far he’ll go, but I do think he’d like to fix it.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., scheduled an initial procedural vote for today to commence debate. It is expected to succeed easily, and then the Senate will spend days or weeks – no one knows how long – sorting through proposals.

Democrats and some Republicans say they want to help the “Dreamers,” young immigrants who have lived in the U.S. illegally since they were children. Trump has said he wants to aid them and has even proposed a path to citizenship for 1.8 million, but in exchange wants $25 billion for his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall plus significant curbs to legal immigration.

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