Less than three weeks after the first government shutdown in nearly five years, Washington is poised for yet another showdown over immigration and government funding.
The three-week patchwork funding deal that ended the January shutdown is set to end on Thursday.
Protections for so-called Dreamers, children brought to the US illegally who have grown up in the country, are set to expire on 5 March.
Republicans in the House have mooted a proposal to fund the government through 22 March. This has raised concern among Democrats, as it would keep the government open past the deadline for replacing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca), the Obama-era policy protecting Dreamers that Trump rescinded last year.
Under the agreement that ended the January shutdown, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell pledged to allow the Senate to vote freely on immigration after 8 February, provided the government was not closed.
As part of efforts to reach a compromise, the Delaware Democratic Senator Chris Coons was set to introduce a bipartisan immigration bill with John McCain, an Arizona Republican, on Monday.
The bill is modeled on a proposal in the House, authored by Texas Republican Will Hurd and California Democrat Pete Aguilar, that would grant permanent legal status to Dreamers and increase border security.
Coons said on a conference call with reporters on Monday that he saw his proposal as “a strong bipartisan option” to advance the immigration debate.
He added that the bill does “not have robust investments for security” and instead requires a plan to be submitted to Congress for protecting the border. Coons noted that he would be “open to adding funding” as a potential compromise.
The bill was offered as a more limited compromise than broader proposals offered by Donald Trump and by another pair of senators, South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat.
Trump’s proposal, which offers a path to citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers but also demands $25bn to build a wall on the border with Mexico, has been panned by Democrats.
Coons said his limited deal was an opportunity to create “a base ball” on immigration, allowing the Senate to move forward and “resolve all the unfinished work that is months past due”.
Any Senate immigration bill would face a difficult path in the House. In 2013, a bipartisan deal on comprehensive immigration reform passed the Senate 68-32. It never received a vote in the lower chamber, under then-speaker John Boehner.
Boehner’s successor, Paul Ryan, leads an even more fractious Republican caucus, in which some are even opposed to Trump’s relatively draconian proposal, because of it offers a path to citizenship.
This article was written by Ben Jacobs in Washington, for theguardian.com on Monday 5th February 2018 19.25 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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