WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders scheduled a showdown vote on consensus immigration legislation as the Senate turned its sights Tuesday to a narrow bill to stop family separations and contain the political fallout over the president’s “zero tolerance” policy.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., scheduled the House vote for Wednesday despite last-minute changes that left the bill’s passage in doubt. The bill was delayed twice last week because leaders lacked the votes to prevail.
If the measure fails, the House could follow the Senate’s lead and try to ram through narrow legislation dealing with just family separations at the border before the July 4 holiday recess.
President Donald Trump has called House efforts to pass a consensus bill futile, but he has urged Congress to provide a legislative remedy to address the detention and separation of children from their parents with refugee and asylum claims at the border.
The House consensus bill would offer undocumented immigrant youths, or DREAMers, a path for earned citizenship, provide $25 billion for a border wall construction, and address the family separations.
But GOP conservatives remain opposed to “amnesty” provisions that they say earned citizenship provides, something moderates want in the bill.
A more conservative bill died in the House last week when 41 GOP lawmakers abandoned the legislation. Republican leaders have been unable to bridge a divide between their party’s conservative and moderate members.
Even if the consensus bill should pass the House, it would face opposition in the Senate, where Democrats and Republicans failed to come to agreement on legislation addressing DREAMers this year.
Instead, Senate GOP leaders are actively writing a narrow bill that could attract Democratic votes needed to provide a legislative remedy to the Trump administration’s border policy on asylum seekers that resulted in separating 2,300 children from their parents.
The administration policy and stepped-up border enforcement created a worldwide outcry.
In an attempt to quell the condemnation, Trump signed an executive order to reverse the policy, but senators said the directive violates a federal court order that prohibits the government from detaining children for more than 20 days.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said “an unusual couple” of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, are trying to find to a way forward to address just the separations and incarcerations.
“We’re hopeful they can reach an agreement,” McConnell said, “something the Senate can pass on a voice vote.”
But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters the president and Republicans can fix the situation immediately.
“The president created this problem,” Schumer said. “The quickest way to solve it is administratively.”
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the Republican whip, said a Democratic bill by Feinstein would create an “enforcement free zone” and result in another “catch and release” program.
Cornyn said it was imperative that Congress act immediately to get asylum cases before a judge and stop the separation of families.
He said lawmakers need to pass a bill “yesterday” to address the problem.
Cornyn has written a bill to hire more immigration judges and expedite asylum claims. It is co-sponsored by Cruz, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and other GOP senators who urged the president last week to halt the separations.
Trump, however, has said he isn’t in favor of adding more immigration judges. “Hiring many thousands of judges, and going through a long and complicated legal process, is not the way to go,” he tweeted on Monday.
Feinstein’s bill would prohibit the federal government from separating families. That bill is co-signed by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., and 30 other Democrats.
Cortez Masto toured detention facilities Monday along the U.S.-Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas where she spoke to families who have been separated from their children and do not know their whereabouts.
She called the situation at the border “heartbreaking” and said her mission now was to reunite children with their parents.
States file lawsuit
LOS ANGELES — Seventeen states, including New York and California, sued the Trump administration Tuesday to force it to reunite the thousands of immigrant children and parents it separated at the border.
The states, all led by Democratic attorneys general, joined Washington, D.C., in filing the lawsuit in federal court in Seattle, arguing that they are being forced to shoulder increased child welfare, education and social services costs.
Separately, immigration-rights activists asked a federal judge in Los Angeles to order that parents be released and immediately reunited with their children.
The Justice Department did not respond to a request for a comment on the multistate lawsuit. It had no comment on the Los Angeles filing.
— The Associated Press