Senate now open to considering House immigration plan

Republican senators who previously said immigration was a dead issue said Thursday the House immigration plan drafted by House Speaker Paul Ryan could get a vote in their chamber.

"If the House passes something the president would sign, I'll take a look at it," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Before the House immigration deal he told Fox News last week that immigration was "not on the agenda in the Senate." It was not on his list of priorities for the August recess released in May.

He has said in recent months he would have the Senate consider the legislation if President Donald Trump would support it, but it's been unclear until this week what immigration plan would get a vote in the House.

But now several Republican senators, who for several weeks said immigration consideration was highly unlikely in the Senate, also told McClatchy Thursday that it's now a distinct possibility with White House support.

The shift comes as the House plans to vote on two immigration bills next week, one referred to as the Goodlatte bill (named for sponsor Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.) and a compromise bill between conservative and moderate Republicans. Ryan, R-Wis., has been pushing the other measure.

President Donald Trump has not taken a public stance on House legislation, but adviser Stephen Miller was lobbying for the compromise bill on Capitol Hill Wednesday, a strong sign of White House support.

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-California., one of the key members pushing for immigration reform alongside Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Florida, said he's been speaking with Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, about immigration possibilities in the Senate.

"We'll see what happens in the House," Gardner said. "I have to take a look at what eventually emerges, and then see where the support lies or doesn't lie in the Senate."

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, gave a short and sweet "no" when asked if he thought any Senate Democrats would support the Ryan legislation being considered in the House.

The bill text of the compromise has not been released, but an outline includes a limits to legal immigration, $25 billion for border security, including Trump's wall, and other highly conservative immigration positions.

But it also includes a path to citizenship for Dreamers, people who were brought to the country illegally as children, which the more-conservative Goodlatte bill does not include.

If either bill passed the House and was considered by the Senate it would need 60 votes to overcome lengthy debate. Since Republicans control 51 Senate seats, any bill would need substantial Democratic support.

Curbelo said his ideal scenario is passing the compromise bill out of the House and having the Senate make enough changes to win that Democratic backing. If that happened, House and Senate negotiators could iron out a compromise bill.

It's still unknown if the House will pass anything. The House Freedom Caucus, which was in talks to draw up the bill, has not yet weighed in on if they will support or oppose the measures, citing the need to see official bill text. Democrats have said the same, but Denham said he does not expect any Democratic support on either bill.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi set the record for the longest House floor speech Wednesday. She spoke for more than six hours to oppose the budget deal because the plan doesn't include a permanent solution for undocumented immigrants affected

That means supporters of the compromise can only lose 20 Republican votes and still hope to pass it out of the House. The House Freedom Caucus has about three dozen members.

McClatchy reporters Alex Daugherty, Lesley Clark and Christine Condon contributed to this report.

Kate Irby: 202-383-6071; @KateIrby