Originally published by Politico
Despite the collapse of this week’s immigration debate, Jeff Flake isn’t giving up.
The retiring Arizona Republican said he plans to go to the Senate floor as soon as the chamber returns from next week’s recess and will demand a vote on his plan to provide $7.6 billion in border wall money spread over three years in exchange for three years of codification of the expiring Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals program.
“I’ll just keep at it. I do think that’s something the Democrats can go for,” Flake said in a telephone interview Friday.
Flake expects co-sponsors in both parties for his effort; Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) has also spoken favorably of going to a small-ball deal if more comprehensive efforts failed. She said Thursday that she consistently raised the possible backup plan during bipartisan talks that failed to produce a bill that could win 60 votes.
“One of the things I repeatedly said is that: ‘The fallback position might have been better structured as three and three.’ Three years of [border wall] funding for three years of codification of DACA,” Heitkamp said.
The Trump administration may have other plans.
The White House’s early preference going forward is a new bill sponsored by GOP Sens. John Thune of South Dakota, Jerry Moran of Kansas and Rob Portman of Ohio that would provide $25 billion in exchange for permanently extending DACA, an administration official said on Friday. Enrollees would have to reapply every two years under that plan.
The Flake and Thune proposals were introduced after the Senate on Thursday rejected several efforts to protect Dreamers ahead of a March 5 deadline imposed by President Donald Trump.
Trump’s plan to grant a pathway to citizenship to 1.8 million young undocumented immigrants in exchange for $25 billion in border wall money and cuts to legal immigration failed spectacularly, garnering only 39 votes. A bipartisan bill that Flake and Heitkamp helped write that sidestepped those cuts to legal immigration also failed to get 60 votes, falling short at 54.
Flake said support for the centrists’ effort may have been tamped down by the order of the votes on Thursday. The bipartisan amendment came before the Trump-backed bill from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). And Flake suspects many in his party were holding out to vote with Trump.
“We had hopes that we might get to 60. It was difficult given the way it was structured. Having the Grassley proposal last made it difficult,” Flake said. “You had a number of Republicans that felt they needed to vote yes on the president’s proposal.”