January 17, 2018

Amid mixed signals from the White House on an immigration deal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he will hold off on a vote until President Trump says exactly what he will support.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, the leader of the Republican majority said that moving forward on a deal to protect undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children would be “just spinning our wheels” until it’s clear what Trump will back.

“I’m looking for something that President Trump supports and he’s not yet indicated what measure he’s willing to sign,” McConnell said.

A bipartisan, bicameral group of Congressional leaders is still working on an immigration deal. The group met with Trump Administration officials on Wednesday and they will convene again on Thursday.

There are several proposals floating around Congress to deal with people who have avoided deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which the Trump Administration announced last fall it would wind down.

There is a broad conservative plan that addresses a number of immigration issues but does not give Dreamers a path to citizenship. The White House cheered that bill, but it seems unlikely to garner the bipartisan support it would need. There’s a narrow bipartisan plan that would allow Dreamers to earn citizenship while beefing up border security. But in a meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Wednesday, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said the White House is not aware of the details of that plan.

And then there is a bipartisan plan that would address the four issues Trump said were critical to him in a meeting last week: border security, family-based or “chain” migration, the diversity visa lottery program, and a permanent fix for DACA.

Trump dismissed that bill when it was presented to him at the White House, and in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, said that the plan was “horrible” on border security and “very, very weak” on other reforms that he has called for. “It is the opposite of what I campaigned for,” he said.

The White House has offered lawmakers somewhat of a blueprint of what the president would want in an immigration bill, but that list includes a number of issues lawmakers would be better suited for a comprehensive immigration reform package, not a smaller bill designed to help the approximately 700,000 beneficiaries of DACA and address other issues.

There was hope after the President met with a group of two dozen lawmakers at the White House last week since he told the group that he’d sign whatever they came up with and narrowed the list of must-haves down to four key components. But Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has called on Trump to “close the deal,” said that Trump later changed his mind.

“We had a president that I was proud to golf with, call my friend, who understood immigration had to be bipartisan, you had to have border security as essential, you have border security with a wall, but he also understood the idea that we had to do it with compassion,” the South Carolina senator said. “I don’t know where that guy went. I want him back.”

Democrats are still pushing for a DACA deal to be included in a bill to fund the government that needs to pass by Jan. 19. Democratic leaders said Wednesday there was broad support within the caucus to vote against any short-term bill that does not include DACA language.

“The overwhelming number in our caucus have said they don’t like this deal and they believe that if we kick the can down the road this time we’ll be back where we started from next time,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday. “There’s very, very strong support not to go along with their deal.”

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