STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Immigration negotiations: Lots of talk, little progress

There are several groups in Congress who have been meeting regularly to try to reach a breakthrough on stalled immigr...

Posted: Feb 1, 2018 5:48 PM
Updated: Feb 1, 2018 5:48 PM

There are several groups in Congress who have been meeting regularly to try to reach a breakthrough on stalled immigration talks. But that doesn't mean they're making much progress.

Lawmakers are quick to bemoan the lack of forward motion on a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, a program that protected young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children that President Donald Trump is ending.

The talks' lack of progress sets the stage for the next funding deadline, February 8

Congress still remains far from a clear path forward

The lack of progress stands in contrast to what Trump called in his State of the Union address Tuesday a "bipartisan approach," despite no Democrats supporting his framework.

"We presented Congress with a detailed proposal that should be supported by both parties as a fair compromise, one where nobody gets everything they want, but where our country gets the critical reforms it needs and must have," he said, even as his proposal was dismissed as dead on arrival by Democrats whose votes will ultimately be needed to pass any compromise.

RELATED: What Trump's State of the Union means for the immigration debate

Despite months of negotiations on how to preserve DACA and enact other measures like border security and White House-requested immigration overhauls, Congress still remains far from a clear path forward even as a deadline for government spending approaches.

"I wouldn't say we're making progress," said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of the so-called "No. 2s" group, regular meetings of the seconds in command in both parties in both the House and Senate that have been coordinating with key administration officials.

"I would say we're continuing, however, to try to winnow down what the discussion is about. We haven't done it yet," Hoyer said.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn similarly left a meeting last week of the group and characterized it as "wheel spinning." Democrats have long complained their perception is the group mainly exists to slow down negotiations.

The circular talks, which sources in the room describe as mostly reiterations of positions that in most cases neither side is willing to cede, are indicative of a broader stalemate leading up to February 8 -- when another short-term government funding bill is likely. After that, lawmakers await Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's promise to hold an open floor debate on immigration.

Likewise a group of roughly 20 bipartisan senators that formed out of the government shutdown at the last funding deadline has been meeting essentially daily to find common ground on the issue. But lawmakers in that group have similarly described a process of defining the issues, and have said their group's work is mostly to generate ideas that will then be funneled to Cornyn and Democratic Whip Dick Durbin for further negotiation.

"We want to be deferential," one of the group's organizers, Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, said after a meeting Monday. "We hope we might be able to be helpful to them by going through a series of concepts," she added, saying the group had discussed various proposals out there.

Many of the lawmakers in the group have little prior specialty in immigration policy. North Dakota Democrat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp said that Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford has been working to brief the group on what the Department of Homeland Security wants out of negotiations, and the group does include one of the authors of the 2013 "Gang of Eight" immigration reform bill, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

"I think that there's such a discussion right now between process, how do you start, and then definitional, and I think the great work we're doing in there is look, let's get our facts in order, let's get a unified sense of understanding," Heitkamp said after one of the meetings of the group.

The groups' efforts have attempted to find a path forward even after Trump rejected a bipartisan compromise negotiated by Durbin and a handful of other senators over months, declined a DACA for border wall offer from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and after the White House put out an aggressive framework that included a generous path to citizenship for the young undocumented immigrants but included a number of hardline requests that Democrats have said are impossible to swallow.

Some in the bipartisan group are already talking about narrowing the debate to just two issues -- DACA and physical border security -- even as others in the group reject that approach. Republicans like Cornyn and Lankford have said the White House's "four pillars," which include cuts to family migration and the diversity visa lottery and define border security broadly to include deportation authorities and other measures, have to be the starting point and can't be narrowed down.

"If we can't get a deal that includes that we may have to pair it down to two pillars and just do border and DACA as plan B," Rubio told CNN's Suzanne Malveaux on Wednesday. "But I know they're going to try plan A first, and you know I've supported that and I continue to support limiting (family-based migration) to nuclear family."

Meanwhile, the bipartisan group on the House side of the Capitol, the Problem Solvers Caucus, has proposed a compromise that hews very closely to the already-rejected proposal from Durbin, though the Senate has moved on from it. That group's co-chairman, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, has been in touch with Collins and her Democratic co-organizer Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, about possibly bringing the two groups together to meet, the New Jersey Democrat told CNN.

All of the talk is setting the stage for a potentially messy floor debate in the Senate. Though McConnell has pledged to call something to the floor for an open debate process if no deal otherwise is reached by February 8, he has not made any statements about what he would call as a starting point. And with an open amendment process, the debate could get messy and any bill could be brought down by a poison pill amendment intentionally designed to tank the process.

Still, lawmakers are continuing to meet.

"I don't know," Durbin said of whether the plan to funnel ideas through him and Cornyn will work. "We've never tried anything like this. But I'm hopeful, and so is he."

As for the No. 2s meeting he's a part of, Durbin added, "We do have some looming deadlines. I hope that moves us."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 605426

Reported Deaths: 9642
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion836221331
Lake45189680
Allen32646547
Hamilton29240315
St. Joseph27260380
Elkhart24354344
Vanderburgh19292248
Tippecanoe17905133
Johnson14974293
Porter14707168
Hendricks14295248
Madison10909220
Vigo10688179
Clark10581139
Monroe9338110
Delaware9089134
LaPorte9007162
Howard8177143
Kosciusko803182
Warrick668798
Hancock6639104
Bartholomew6443100
Floyd6377109
Wayne6106161
Grant5965115
Dubois554079
Boone549467
Morgan535595
Henry505564
Marshall502684
Cass482663
Dearborn476245
Noble471257
Jackson421947
Shelby413881
Lawrence389179
Clinton372043
Gibson369159
DeKalb345964
Harrison345644
Montgomery343354
Knox334339
Miami319844
Steuben313045
Whitley304526
Wabash301447
Adams299635
Ripley297545
Putnam294149
Huntington290659
Jasper288134
White272242
Daviess266774
Jefferson262538
Decatur246583
Fayette246348
Greene239262
Posey238128
Wells234050
LaGrange227662
Scott223439
Clay221832
Randolph212848
Jennings197736
Sullivan191133
Spencer190121
Washington183722
Fountain183127
Starke174843
Jay167022
Owen163637
Fulton163130
Orange157234
Carroll156415
Rush154418
Perry152727
Vermillion148634
Franklin147833
Tipton131832
Parke13038
Pike116226
Blackford110922
Pulaski96837
Newton90721
Brown87534
Benton86510
Crawford7929
Martin73013
Warren6777
Switzerland6575
Union6267
Ohio4867
Unassigned0375

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 853982

Reported Deaths: 10599
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin100550707
Cuyahoga849601082
Hamilton63509448
Montgomery42863417
Summit34586759
Lucas31151616
Butler30735231
Stark25598430
Warren19552140
Lorain18847223
Mahoning17215337
Lake15967154
Clermont15800111
Delaware1430578
Licking13130137
Trumbull12739313
Fairfield1269181
Greene11975136
Medina11504168
Clark10867265
Wood10289158
Allen9826126
Portage9213108
Miami911373
Richland9085117
Marion7437113
Tuscarawas7339181
Columbiana7286124
Pickaway721750
Wayne6987171
Muskingum693941
Erie6113127
Hancock549090
Ross546098
Scioto536364
Geauga503855
Darke467892
Ashtabula451073
Lawrence450154
Union447728
Sandusky434762
Mercer432488
Huron425441
Seneca424865
Auglaize421164
Shelby420522
Jefferson416769
Belmont412740
Washington385240
Athens37669
Putnam373575
Madison352129
Knox350222
Ashland342838
Fulton336543
Defiance328282
Crawford320573
Preble319137
Brown309121
Logan305532
Ottawa290143
Clinton287943
Williams277167
Highland273718
Jackson262445
Guernsey251325
Champaign249728
Fayette235130
Morrow23124
Perry228718
Holmes223874
Henry217349
Hardin211333
Coshocton204521
Van Wert201145
Gallia195426
Wyandot194651
Pike173917
Adams173015
Hocking171024
Carroll154216
Paulding143421
Noble120340
Meigs108024
Monroe100631
Harrison88421
Morgan82629
Vinton69513
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 13°
Feels Like: 20°
Angola
Cloudy
23° wxIcon
Hi: 29° Lo: 12°
Feels Like: 23°
Huntington
Cloudy
26° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 10°
Feels Like: 21°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 13°
Feels Like: 20°
Lima
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 15°
Feels Like: 20°
Light Snow Sunday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events