Senate formally opens immigration debate as bipartisan agreement remains elusive

After two days of procedural fits and starts, the Senate finally moved Wednesday to begin debate on immigration reforms aimed at resolving what to do with undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children whose legal status in the country may soon expire.

The Senate approved a motion by voice vote to begin debate.

Democrats demanded the debate on immigration — and even briefly shut down the government to try to force it — but have yet to agree to a compromise bill with a group of Republicans that could get 60 to pass the chamber.

Those talks were still underway in the office of Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, when the floor debate formally opened. Attendees said they were very close to a deal.

The inability of the bipartisan group to put a bill on the floor for a vote has frustrated Republicans who said they were stunned that after months of negotiations, the group wasn’t ready. Many Republicans back a plan that is supported by President Donald Trump, which would lead to a pathway for citizenship for 1.8 million people in return for $25 billion for border protection and significant changes to “chain” migration and the diversity visa lottery. That measure is also unlikely to get 60 votes.