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McConnell: 'As Soon as We Figure Out' What Trump is for, DACA Bill Can Move Forward

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.),, flanked by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), speaks to reporters at the Capitol on Jan. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders indicated today that they’re trying to forge a deal acceptable to the White House to save the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but that they’re not quite sure what the president wants to see.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) met today with Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). The same group of negotiators plans on sitting down again Thursday.

“We all want to get to a solution here,” Cornyn told reporters outside of a closed policy luncheon on Capitol Hill. “But the president’s made clear there are four components to that. There’s the DACA solution, there’s a border security solution, and then we need to deal with the diversity lottery visa and chain migration. None of these are easy.”

“But we’re all highly motivated by the fact that come March the 5th, this program will no longer be available, and all of the work permits that currently exist for the 690,000 DACA recipients will go away,” he added. “And so we’re all committed to getting to yes, and we’re going to keep working hard until we get there.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) acknowledged that President Trump has “not yet indicated what measure he’s willing to sign.”

“As soon as we figure out what he is for, then I would be convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels going to this issue on the floor, but actually dealing with a bill that has a chance to become law and therefore solve the problem,” he said.

Durbin told PBS that there was “not really” any sort of breakthrough in negotiations today.

“This was the fifth meeting of this group, the first meeting or second of the principals. The staff has been meeting. And we have been attending and trying to move this along,” he said. “But the difficulty is, this is a contentious, complicated issue. There are many aspects of it. That’s why it’s taken us four months in the Senate to come up with a bipartisan agreement on how to move forward. This effort, which Congressman McCarthy, whom I respect, is trying to initiate has a long way to go.”

Durbin noted that last week at a White House meeting Trump “told a group of us, 26 of us, you pass the bill and send it to me and I will sign it.”

“And here we are with a bill which has growing Republican support, and Senator McConnell has said, never mind, we’re not going to take up this bill unless we get some sort of advanced approval from President Trump,” he added.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters today that the administration would first like to see a budget deal that averts a government shutdown on Friday, “and then let’s come back to work aggressively on Monday and make a deal on DACA and responsible immigration reform.”

“We’d like to do all of those things, and be happy to do them quickly if Democrats are willing to work with us and get onboard,” Sanders said. “…We very much want to get a deal done on DACA. That’s a big priority for us right now. But we can certainly manage more than one thing at a time, as we’re used to doing around here. And if infrastructure gets rolled out by the end of the month or the first part of next month, we’ll certainly be working on that as well.”

White House chief of staff John Kelly met with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus today, a meeting at which he reportedly told Democratic lawmakers that Trump’s border wall promises on the campaign trail were “not fully informed.” Kelly did not bring a White House DACA proposal.