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Trump prods Congress amid debate on immigration; Arkansas' Cotton calls bill 'best and final offer'

By The Associated Press

This article was originally published February 13, 2018 at 10:42 a.m. Updated February 13, 2018 at 6:12 p.m.

president-donald-trump-speaks-in-the-state-dining-room-of-the-white-house-in-washington-monday-feb-12-2018-during-a-meeting-with-state-and-local-officials-about-infrastructure-ap-photocarolyn-kaster

President Donald Trump speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, during a meeting with state and local officials about infrastructure. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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.

enate 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 President Donald Trump's priorities and a second, much narrower bill from Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Chris Coons, D-Del.

His reasoning: The legislation should address the population of young immigrants that lawmakers from both parties say they want to help, rather than deal with side issues such as punishing sanctuary cities.

McConnell replied: "I'm not trying to dictate to them what they offer. They shouldn't be trying to dictate to us what we offer. We ought to just get started."

The disagreement pushed any immigration-related votes into Wednesday. That gives a group of moderate lawmakers more time to come up with a package that could generate 60 votes in the Senate.

"Until we reach an end there, I still hope that's the vehicle," said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., one of the group's key participants.

Exiting the Senate floor Tuesday evening, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said "things change by the hour" on immigration, but he felt better as the day went on about the prospects of getting a bill passed. He said lawmakers are meeting privately in search of a compromise.

Trump, in an early-morning tweet, said Congress must act now to provide legal protections to young "Dreamer" immigrants.

"Wouldn't it be great if we could finally, after so many years, solve the DACA puzzle," he wrote, adding: "This will be our last chance, there will never be another opportunity! March 5th."

Trump was referring to a deadline he announced last year to end a program protecting young immigrants from deportation, formally known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. But a recent court ruling has rendered that deadline all but meaningless.

In an exchange later Tuesday with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Trump again tried to accuse Democrats of not wanting to fix DACA but then told the senator he was joking.

"Everybody's in there working hard on it right now. I think we have a chance to do DACA very bipartisan. I think that can happen," he said during a meeting on trade issues with lawmakers at the White House. "And I hope we're going to be able to do that, senator."

One GOP proposal based on principles dictated by the White House would pave a path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million young "Dreamer" immigrants in the U.S., a lure for Democrats that many Republicans oppose.

Trump also wants $25 billion for Trump's border wall with Mexico and other security measures as well as curbs on legal immigration — a must for many Republicans.

"This proposal has my support, and during this week of fair debate, I believe it deserves the support of every senator who's ready to move beyond making points and actually making a law," McConnell said.

McConnell and other GOP supporters describe the measure as the Senate's best shot of passing a bill that the president will sign, but many Democrats consider some of the proposals, including limiting the relatives that legal immigrants can bring to the U.S., to be non-starters.

Schumer expressed opposition to Trump's sweeping approach, pushing for a more narrow focus.

"Helping the Dreamers become Americans and protecting our borders. That should be the focus of all our energies," Schumer said.

Trump's overall immigration plan, opposed by many Democrats, stands little chance of prevailing because any measure will need 60 votes. That means proposals will need substantial bipartisan support since the GOP majority is 51-49, and McCain has been absent in recent weeks battling cancer.

Still, many Republicans are insisting that the bill incorporating Trump's priorities is a compromise because it gives up to 1.8 million young immigrants a pathway to citizenship.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, one of the lawmakers who introduced a bill based on Trump's plan, described it as a "best and final offer" and said there's no room for negotiations.

He told Fox News' Fox and Friends on Tuesday morning that Congress has just two options: "the president's framework bill or nothing."

In a meeting with sheriffs at the White House, Trump continued to frame the debate in a way that depicts many of the illegal immigrants seeking to enter the U.S. as dangerous criminals.

"We're asking Congress to support our immigration policy that keeps terrorists, drug dealers, criminals and gang members out of our country. We want them out. We don't want them in and right now we're working on DACA, we're working on immigration bills and we're making them tough," Trump said.

Read Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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Comments on: Trump prods Congress amid debate on immigration; Arkansas' Cotton calls bill 'best and final offer'

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RBear says... February 13, 2018 at 11:17 a.m.

"This will be our last chance, there will never be another opportunity! March 5th." Can this president ever speak in anything but hyperbole? Either that or he's so dumb he doesn't understand the Congress will endure LONG after he's going in one term. Trump knows he cannot get his wasteful wall spending WITHOUT holding DACA recipients hostage even though the two issues are unrelated.
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Cotton's threat of "best and final offer" shows he's just a Trump clone who really can't think for himself. When Trump exits after one term, he'll be just another lost Republican senator who'll want his daddy back. Looking back at Cotton's record, it's not that spectacular. I would suggest he start actually doing something in the Senate if he expects to be considered in the presidential circus. Time to move some big rocks on his own rather than be the president's lapdog.

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DoubleBlind says... February 13, 2018 at 11:21 a.m.

Cotton, acting like Trump’s immigration enforcer goon. Suits him perfectly.

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Wowy says... February 13, 2018 at 11:34 a.m.

The Orange Savior of the World has finally found someone with a pair of beans - Cotton!!
The dimwitted communists are going to get broke down like a double barrel shotgun. You gay-loving, Christian haters better get more Vaseline. The Golden Eagle is going to land and it will "smart" some when he does, LMAO!!

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KnuckleBall says... February 13, 2018 at 1:04 p.m.

Tommy boy was on CBS this morning and I am guessing his hearing has gotten bad.... he failed to answer a single question...!!!!
His head is so far stuck up in the Trumpster his ears are stopped up....!

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TimberTopper says... February 13, 2018 at 1:18 p.m.

At some point his kids will see he wasn't a man at all!

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hah406 says... February 13, 2018 at 1:18 p.m.

Cotton needs to learn that "no room for negotiation" is not how the founding fathers intended for our government to run. Negotiation is what produces the budget bill last week, where no one got everything they wanted, but everyone got something they could live with.

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3WorldState1 says... February 13, 2018 at 1:20 p.m.

Yes, why is this the "last chance" again?
And on another note. How stupid is this morons transportation bill? Here's $200B, you throw in the 1.3 Trillion. I said it before. The GOP wants to cut the Fed Gov to the bone, which will substantially raise taxes via state taxes. And states like AR, the Shi%-hole of states, if you will, will suffer because of this. We don't have that kind of money, and we certainly don't have the kind of voter that would vote to raise taxes for roads and bridges.
Get ready for your $40 a month I-630 Toll sticker. And $4.50 every time you go down 430 and $3.75 when you hit 30. And so on and so on. Noice!

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Packman says... February 13, 2018 at 1:47 p.m.

There will be no DACA deal because both sides see a "no deal" as good for their tribe. D's believe they will flip the House and perhaps the Senate this fall and then kick Trump out of the White House in 2020 allowing them to pass amnesty for all in 2021.
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R's believe than can convince enough voters of color the failed deal was the D's fault and retain control of the House and pick up seats in the Senate this fall and ride it all the way to Trump's re-election in 2020 where he handily defeats the D dream team of Kamala Harris and Oprah Winfrey.
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Sadly, both sides see benefit in holding Dreamers hostage.

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mrcharles says... February 13, 2018 at 2:42 p.m.

hogslop, it appears your deity up in washington has a friend in Israel that may be brought up on corruption charges. Seems like snakes like to lay out in the sun together... do you use sunscreen?

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gohog2018 says... February 13, 2018 at 4:06 p.m.

Go back to sleep, mrchuck. It may help you, but I have my doubts. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. But that's what you've done.

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