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There's one problem with Trump's call for Congress to act fast on immigration

John T. Bennett, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump wants Congress to end its Easter Recess before it's even really started to work on an immigration overhaul bill.

There's only one problem: One of his closest Senate allies made clear the only bill in town isn't ready yet.

Trump fired off this tweet Monday morning as House members and senators are back home or on foreign travel, not slated to return to Washington for two weeks: "Congress should come back to D.C. now and FIX THE IMMIGRATION LAWS!"

That echoed what Marc Lotter, strategic communications director for Trump's 2020 campaign and formerly press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence, told CNN around the same time: "The president can't do this without Congress." Lotter called on lawmakers to send Trump a bill that overhauls the country's asylum laws while making other perceived fixes to the immigration system.

But until the weekend, there was no sign lawmakers were working on a bipartisan bill that could pass both chambers and get Trump's signature. That changed with comments from Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham.

"I'll be introducing a package (after the recess), and hopefully with Democratic support, that will change our asylum laws," the South Carolina Republican and Trump ally told Fox Business Network on Sunday.

But a day before the president called for immediate action, Graham described a process that likely will take weeks to play out as he tries a delicate maneuver to bring Democrats and the White House together. What's more, he also will have to get Trump on the same page with enough GOP senators.

In 2017, the White House was unable to garner enough votes -- including Republican ones -- to pass a Trump-pushed reform measure. And the White House, despite Trump saying he would support a bipartisan immigration bill, helped kill one at the same time.

 

Graham said he also must "get agreement" between himself, the White House and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee chairman.

From there, he would have to then "sit down with our Democratic colleagues and we'll try to figure out a deal that will stop this madness."

But the elements of such a GOP-Democratic deal the Judiciary chairman and Trump confidant laid out are all things opposed by just about every congressional Democrat -- and the party's base, which is key with the 2020 race already underway.

"We need troops at the border, we need a wall, but there is no way you're going to stop the flow from Central America until you change our laws," Graham said. "These laws are insane."

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