Flake Signals Deal to Vote on DACA Proposal

Measure could come to the Senate floor with or without Trump’s backing

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake said, “The way to find out what the president wants on DACA is to pass a bill.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake said, “The way to find out what the president wants on DACA is to pass a bill.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted January 20, 2018 at 10:02am

Senators left the Capitol early Saturday morning hoping that an agreement hashed out after midnight would win enough support to get the votes to keep the government shutdown from extending to the workweek.

Arizona Republican Jeff Flake said after the marathon vote in which a mostly Democratic group voted to block a government funding bill that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has now agreed to put immigration legislation on the floor, with or without assurances of a signature by President Donald Trump.

“The way to find out what the president wants on [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] is to pass a bill, to bring a bill to the floor. And that is what the majority leader has now agreed to do,” Flake said. “Now whether that will be enough to bring more Democrats over by tomorrow, I don’t know.”

Flake has backed the effort led by Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham to provide a path to citizenship for the DACA recipients.

If the agreement with Flake and Graham succeeds in getting Democrats on board without additional objections, legislation to keep the government funded through Feb. 8, might be headed to Trump late Saturday.

Watch: McConnell, Durbin Make Their Case As Shutdown Looms

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But Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said that what Graham argued for Friday into Saturday“was absent that the leader would put a bill on the floor and let the Senate work its will.”

Flake indicated that a DACA vote at least would take place before Feb. 8.

“We would start the process and invoke cloture on the Graham-Durbin bill and maybe another one. [Georgia Sen. David] Perdue was talking about having a bill. If they have one, we’ll put that up too,” Flake said.

GOP Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Perdue have met multiple times with Trump and members of his administration about immigration policy and have decidedly different views from senators like Graham, Durbin and Flake.

If either side could muster 60 votes to at least break any potential filibusters on starting the debate, the Senate would find itself in an immigration policy debate.

The Senate reconvenes at noon Saturday. While McConnell has taken the procedural steps to try to break a potential filibuster on Monday, there appears to be optimism that a successful vote could come up before then.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement shortly after midnight stating that “Senate Democrats own the Schumer Shutdown.”

“Tonight, they put politics above our national security, military families, vulnerable children, and our country’s ability to serve all Americans,” the statement read. “We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands.”

Her post-vote statement did not rule out the Flake scenario. Sanders did not respond to a request for comment from Roll Call.

Trump responded to the vote with several tweets, charging that Senate Democrats shut down the government because they “are far more concerned with Illegal Immigrants than they are with our great Military or Safety at our dangerous Southern Border” — and to stain his first anniversary of being president.