Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has moved to begin debate on an immigration bill in the Senate in an unorthodox way – by not starting with an immigration bill. McConnell said that he will not use a bill as the starting point for negotiation. Instead, he will let senators propose amendments straightaway, allowing, essentially, an immigration bill to be built from scratch.
“The bill I move to, which will not have underlying immigration text, will have an amendment process that will ensure a level playing field at the outset,” McConnell said.
He said that he would allow senators from both sides to take turns in submitting proposals for votes. “While I obviously cannot guarantee any outcome, let alone supermajority support, I can ensure the process is fair to all sides, and that is what I intend to do,” he said.
During last month’s government shutdown, McConnell promised to bring an immigration vote to the floor of the Senate if one did not come up by February 8, the next funding deadline, providing the government remained open. Democrats voted to end the government shutdown then, and then struck a deal with Republicans this past week on a two-year government budget going forward. McConnell seems to be holding up his end of the bargain.
Asked whether he had a secret plan to pass a particular bill, McConnell said he didn’t, and vowed not to push the process in any one direction. “Whoever gets to sixty wins,” McConnell said, alluding to number of votes necessary to break a filibuster.
The open-debate format will be a rare “opportunity for a thousand flowers to bloom,” he said.