Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas said lawmakers are taking a new approach on trying to come to a consensus on a bipartisan immigration deal, telling reporters Thursday he doesn’t expect talks between the whips and the House majority leader as the path forward on a possible bill.
The “group of twos” — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, Cornyn, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois — were initially tasked with leading negotiations on a legislative fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the Obama-era initiative that extended temporary legal status to foreign nationals who illegally entered the country as minors.
But according to Cornyn, progress between the four second-in-commands has stalled due to Democrats’ reluctance to partake in the meetings.
“I think the twos are history,” he told reporters Thursday, noting a bipartisan working group in the Senate is attempting to negotiate a deal that could potentially be used as a base for a bill that can pass both chambers. “I’ll be talking to leader McCarthy. It didn’t seem like there was a lot of enthusiasm on the Democrat side for that sort of forum so we’re going to try something else.”
The Texas Republican noted members are pressed for time to come to an agreement, with Senate Majority Mitch McConnell having promised to bring an immigration bill to the floor for debate if a deal isn’t reached by Feb. 8. That promise was made in exchange for Democrat support on a continuing resolution needed to reopen the government earlier in the week.
While Cornyn said the discussions among the group were unlikely to resume, McCarthy said he expects the talks to continue when the House returns from its recess next week.
“We only shut down because they shut down the government,” McCarthy told reporters Monday following the lower chamber’s passage of a short-term CR.
The California Republican said he doesn’t the measure being negotiated by the “gang of six” — GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Michael Bennet of Colorado and Robert Menendez of New Jersey — is the right course of action to take on a DACA deal.
“I don’t think if you narrow the field of who’s putting it together when you have a full body and a full body over there, I think that’s isn’t a recipe for success,” he said. “I think having these meetings that we have, where you have the White House, you have the Senate, you have the Republicans you have the Democrats, you have the House — that to me is a much better structure that you can get a bill that actually it can become law.”
UPDATE 5:52 p.m.:
A Cornyn aide said discussions on immigration remain ongoing between offices.
“His focus while the House is out this week is on the Senate efforts,” the staffer told The Daily Caller in a statement. “Staffs of the ‘group of twos’ continue to meet regularly, but because the House is out the Members haven’t had the chance to meet since prior to the Democrat shutdown.”