Two competing immigration bills failed Thursday in the U.S. Senate, including a bipartisan measure championed by Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King as an alternative approach to addressing the fate of young undocumented immigrants.

The Republican-led Senate was unable to muster enough votes to move ahead on a proposal backed by President Trump or the bipartisan plan crafted by the “Common Sense Coalition” that includes Maine’s senators. Both bills would have granted legal status to 1.8 million young undocumented immigrants, known as “dreamers.”

The Trump-backed plan would have spent at least $25 billion immediately to bolster security along the U.S.-Mexico border, and the bipartisan Senate plan would have appropriated that amount over the next decade. The bipartisan bill also would have curbed family-based immigration programs, but not to the extent Trump is seeking. And the bill said nothing about the diversity visa lottery program, which the Trump-backed plan sought to end.

The White House threatened a veto of the bipartisan plan, and in a tweet shortly before the vote, Trump called it a “total catastrophe.”

King, an independent, and Collins, a Republican, were deeply involved in the bipartisan immigration proposal developed by a group of 16 senators.

The vote was 54-45 in favor of the bipartisan plan, but that was short of the 60 needed for approval. Eight Republicans bucked their party and supported the measure, and three Democrats abandoned their leaders and opposed it.

“Today’s vote was a missed opportunity,” King and Collins said in a joint statement Thursday night. “Our bipartisan immigration proposal, which was the product of countless hours of negotiations and dialogue with our colleagues in the Common Sense Coalition, would have strengthened border security and protected children who were brought to this country illegally through no fault of their own.”

BILL A ‘MISINFORMATION’ TARGET

Maine’s senators noted that their proposal had received broad, bipartisan backing and more support than any other immigration plan, as indicated by the 54 senators from both parties who supported it.

“We are very disappointed by the misinformation that was spread about our legislation,” they said. “The press release that was distributed today by the Department of Homeland Security contained a number of statements that are absolutely false, and it was a real disservice to the brave men and women who work every day to defend our borders.”

The department’s release said the bill “destroys the ability” of the agency to enforce immigration laws and represents an “egregious violation” of the immigration framework that Trump sent to Capitol Hill.

The chamber next rejected Trump’s wide-ranging plan on a vote of 39-60, well short of the 60 needed to move ahead. It faced strong Democratic opposition and had virtually no chance of passage.

Collins and King were listed as primary sponsors of the legislation providing legal status and a path to citizenship to individuals registered under the DACA program – as long as they had arrived in the U.S. by June 15, 2007, and had not engaged in conduct that would make them ineligible. Those not already enrolled in the DACA program would need to take additional steps.

About 95 people in Maine are considered “dreamers” under DACA and could be at risk of deportation if Congress cannot reach a solution by March 5.

Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York criticized Trump for failing to lead on the issue.

“President Trump created this problem by terminating the DACA program last August,” Schumer said. “Since that decision, President Trump has stood in the way of every single proposal that could become law.”

Schumer said immigration has long been a contentious issue in Congress. “There are intense feelings on both sides of the aisle,” he said. “If there was ever a time for presidential leadership, this was it. President Trump has failed this test of leadership spectacularly.”

trying to satisfy president

Moments before the vote, Trump tweeted out his opposition to an amendment supported by King and Collins, pointing to the Homeland Security media release issued earlier in the day that assailed the amendment.

Collins is a leader and King is a member of the Common Sense Coalition, a group of 25 Republican, Democratic and independent senators convened by Collins and Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat. The coalition has been meeting nearly every day in Collins’ office – dubbed “Little Switzerland” by coalition members – to develop a framework to address DACA and other immigration issues, Collins said.

King said the legislation does what Trump asked for during a meeting and then in a tweet on Jan. 9, in that it deals with the DACA dilemma and allots funding for the wall that Trump has promised to build between the U.S. and Mexico.

King quoted Trump statements made in the media and on Twitter. “He said, ‘I think we have to do DACA first,’ ” King said. “That’s the premise we have worked on. This is a narrow bill designed to confront two issues.”

King then addressed the Homeland Security media release.

“It’s mostly critical of what’s not in the bill,” King said. “Things that aren’t in the bill. They were never intended to be in the bill. But this is an important first step. A critical first step, because the time is ticking for these young people who have been in their country, in this country, in our country, and this is the only country they have known … and also it’s time to step up and address the issue of border security.”

King went on to say that the bill was “the only bill that has a chance to get through the U.S. Senate … so if the votes are not there, then there is no solution for DACA and there is a delayed solution for the border.”

‘THIS IS THE BEST SHOT’ FOR A BILL

Meanwhile, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that if the immigration bill came to Trump’s desk with the amendment proposed by Collins, King and the other members of the Common Sense Coalition, his advisers would recommend he veto it.

During the coalition’s news conference, Sen. Lindsay Graham, a South Carolina Republican, urged Trump to reject the extremists on both sides of the immigration debate and accept the amendment as a first step.

“Mr. President, you are being led down a path where we won’t get a result,” Graham said. “Reject this kind of engagement with the Congress. Tell us what you don’t like in a constructive fashion. What’s wrong with Washington? You give (the Department of Homeland Security) $25 billion of the money they asked for and they slam you. You give a pathway to citizenship to 1.8 million DACA recipients and the ‘left’ calls it the worst civil rights abuse in the last 100 years. There are some crazy people around here, just shut them out. This is the best shot you will ever get.”

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 713-6720 or at:

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Twitter: thisdog

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