President prods Congress amid immigration debate

Associated Press

WASHINGTON

A high-stakes Senate debate over immigration got off to a halting start Tuesday, with Republican and Democratic leaders immediately at loggerheads over how to move forward and President Donald Trump warning this was the “last chance” to extend protections to “Dreamer” immigrants.

Trump issued the warning in a morning tweet as the Senate opened what was billed as an unusual and open-ended debate on a host of immigration issues. Democrats had pushed for the debate, hopeful they might be able to craft a piece of legislation in real time on the Senate floor – or at least force Republicans on the record on some difficult issues.

But the experiment in legislating didn’t go very far.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., began the process by throwing his weight behind legislation based on the president’s priorities.

To kick the debate off, McConnell proposed allowing Republicans to bring up an amendment targeting cities that don’t fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities, so-called “sanctuary cities.” Then, Democrats would bring up legislation of their choosing. Amendments gaining 60 votes would become part of the broader immigration bill.

The Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, quickly objected.

“To begin the debate as the Republican leader suggests would be getting off on the wrong foot,” Schumer said. “Very partisan.”

Schumer wants McConnell to bring up legislation that incorporates Trump’s priorities and a second, much narrower bill from Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Chris Coons, D-Del.

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