Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Chris Coons, D-Del., plan to introduce legislation Feb. 5, 2018, that addresses border security and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, also known as “dreamers,” just days before Congress must vote to continue funding for the federal government.
The bill is a companion to the Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act introduced in the House in January 2018, which received strong support from both Democrats and Republicans.
“It’s no secret that Congress is gridlocked, and there is a growing list of unaddressed issues we simply have to fix, but I still believe that we agree on more than we disagree on,” said Coons in a joint press release shared on McCain’s site.
“The bill I’m introducing with Senator McCain today doesn’t solve every immigration issue, but it does address the two most pressing problems we face: protecting DACA recipients and securing the border. I believe there is bipartisan support for both of those things and I believe that we can reach a budget deal that increases funding for our military and important domestic programs. We need to find a way through this gridlock to get Congress working again, and this is a viable path forward.”
DACA and immigration disagreements were at the heart of failed negotiations that led to the three-day government shutdown in January 2018, which only ended after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised to hear DACA legislation by the next budget deadline of Feb. 8, 2018.
The House version of the USA Act was introduced three days prior to that shutdown, but received little committee or floor attention at the time.
“For months, I have been calling on my colleagues to complete a bipartisan budget agreement to lift the caps on defense spending and fully fund the military. While reaching a deal cannot come soon enough for America’s service members, the current political reality demands bipartisan cooperation to address the impending expiration of the DACA program and secure the southern border,” said McCain, who has been absent from Congress since the start of the new year due to health issues.
“Our legislation, which already has broad support in the House of Representatives, would address the most urgent priorities of protecting dreamers, strengthening border security, alleviating the backlog in immigration courts, and addressing the root causes of illegal immigration,” McCain continued.
“I’m grateful to Senator Coons for his leadership and hope our colleagues will support this effort to resolve the immediate challenges before us. It’s time we end the gridlock so we can quickly move on to completing a long-term budget agreement that provides our men and women in uniform the support they deserve.”
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said recently at an industry roundtable that he does not expect another government shutdown on Feb. 8, and added that Congress is likely to pass a fifth continuing resolution, rather than a full budget.
As many Democrats have established DACA legislation as prerequisite for their future votes, a bipartisan bill addressing that issue decreases the likelihood that Senate Democrats would withhold those votes on a continuing resolution.
The USA Act is also not the only DACA- and border security-focused initiative in Congress, as the “Common Sense Coalition” of 26 moderate senators led by Sens. Suzanne Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Manchin, D-W.V., has been working toward a legislative solution that addresses those two issues.
“I have been and remain very encouraged by the bipartisan negotiations toward an immigration compromise that Senators Collins and Manchin have hosted through the Common Sense Coalition, and I plan to continue working with that group to try and find a way forward. The purpose of the legislation I’m introducing today with Senator McCain is to highlight this existing, bipartisan House bill and to add another viable, bipartisan option to the table,” said Coons.
Jessie Bur covered the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees for Federal Times.