- The White House will release its framework for a bipartisan immigration plan on Monday.
- Senators fear that hardline policies could derail negotiations and that President Donald Trump’s policy reversals could deter senators from getting on board.
WASHINGTON – Senators are nervous that White House’s forthcoming immigration reform framework due Monday could derail bipartisan negotiations that have so far been civil, due to President Donald Trump’s volatility on policy issues.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced on Thursday that the new outlines for a bipartisan immigration plan would stick to the original four pillars: border security and legal reforms, addressing chain migration, cancelling the visa lottery, and establishing a permanent fix to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
But past White House proposals have been more strict and conservative in nature. The principles released last October resulted in widespread backlash on Capitol Hill. To make things worse, Trump often contradicts his own administration on policy when he takes to Twitter early in the morning.
“Which one? The one nine o’clock one or the 9:10 one or the 9:20 or the 9:45?” said Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy asked about Trump’s forthcoming immigration framework. “Every time the president tweets he seems to have a different idea.”
“If they would just take the same position for, I don’t know, say 24 hours, but what the heck, that’s too much for them,” Leahy added. “For say, four hours, then maybe we could talk.”
Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware said an ultra-conservative plan from the White House “absolutely could” destabilize the bipartisan talks.
“Part of why we made progress this past weekend in reopening the government was that the president stayed out of it,” said Coons, a Democrat. “And I think it was constructive for him to say that he would support a pathway to citizenship, but given recent experience, I’m skeptical about how long he’ll hold that position.”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told reporters on Thursday that any White House plan, while important, is not his primary concern. However, Graham noted the bipartisan group needs to stay unified in the face of swiftly approaching deadlines to address DACA.
“I’m not worried about what they say. I’m worried about us moving forward,” Graham said. “… I hope we get constructive input from the White House – I’m sure I’ll like a lot of what they want – but the Senate has imposed a deadline on itself to move February the eighth. I’m focused on that.”
Congress has until February 8 to negotiate another spending plan before the government shuts down again.
Some think the White House framework could prove to be a useful guiding tool
Republican Sen. John Kennedy said a new White House framework, while different from past policy outlines, could provide a clearer path about what kind of bill could actually garner the president’s signature.
“The president gave us an outline earlier and well, the president is the president, he can do what he wants,” Kennedy told Business Insider. “And I have enough trouble paddling my own canoe but I would offer the suggestion that it would be helpful to have some more meat on the bone and I understand he’s gonna provide us with some specificity and I think that’s good. I mean who wants to go pass a bill and have it vetoed?”
The momentum on a bipartisan immigration plan is in the Senate’s hands, where many Democrats are acknowledging they too will have to make concessions on a final bill.
“I’ve been doing this for ten years with small groups and large groups,” Graham said. “The fact that more people are involved is good. Because more people see the need for the Senate to operate effectively. So the more people the better. You just gotta channel all this energy so that’s why yesterday’s meeting was so important.”