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7 lawmakers to watch as immigration debate resumes

Emma Dumain, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

The initial meeting Graham orchestrated was also where the decision was made to use Durbin and his Republican counterpart, Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, as the clearinghouses for negotiating the group's ideas with other party leaders.

–– Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. Graham convened the meeting to begin immigration negotiations, but it was Collins who first opened her office doors the weekend of the January government shutdown to any senator who wanted to revive federal operations.

Many of these members of her "Common Sense Caucus" have joined the immigration group, which Collins is continuing to host.

If those meetings end, or are permanently moved elsewhere, it could send an important signal about where she ––one of Congress's most respected moderates and bridge-builders –– thinks the conversations are headed.

–– Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. Just like the end of Collins's involvement in immigration discussions could signal the deterioration of bipartisan negotiations, Gutierrez's embrace of an immigration proposal could indicate a breakthrough.

Democrats are struggling with what they'd be willing to accept in an immigration deal. Gutierrez is himself incensed over the White House's proposal to give all DACA beneficiaries a path to citizenship in exchange for reducing legal immigration to the lowest level in almost a century and erecting a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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But Gutierrez, a hero to pro-DACA activists, has also said he's willing to accept a compromise bill, and if he accepts one, other Democrats might come along, too.

–– Durbin. He has fought for years for legislation to protect DACA beneficiaries from deportation, and Democrats continue to be confident that he will be a good-faith negotiator with Republicans. At the same time, fellow Democrats know Durbin won't sign on to any deal that doesn't have their support.

Judging by his stone-faced response to Trump's State of the Union address, it's clear that Durbin will continue to hold the line for Democrats in the days ahead.

–– Cornyn. In the hours before the government shutdown last month, as lawmakers lobbied McConnell to promise a path forward on immigration so Democrats would vote to keep government open, Cornyn said McConnell should not reward Democrats for "bad behavior." Last week, Cornyn said he was in "pretty constant" contact with the White House.

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