The U.S. Senate is supposed to debate and vote on immigration legislation this week as nearly 690,000 immigrants could face deportation next month if Congress doesn't act.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Senate floor was empty, devoid of senators from either party trying to debate and propose various amendments that could save DACA recipients from potential deportation.
But Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said Tuesday a group of moderate senators led by Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins and West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin will offer a "simple" immigration solution that can get 60 votes in the U.S. Senate.
"I'm very optimistic," Nelson said. "I think that now that the process has started, when we get to what will be our amendment, which is a simple amendment, it takes care of the DACA kids, it takes care of the parents and then on the other side it takes care of the president with a wall that is, of course, many things other than concrete and steel. I think we'll get 60 votes for that, I'm very optimistic."
Nelson pointed out that giving President Donald Trump
about $25 billion for border security doesn't necessarily mean money for a physical wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
"A wall is many things, it's electronics, it's UAVs, it's natural boundaries, etcetera," Nelson said.
He also said that proposals to deal with the so-called “chain migration” system that lets newly documented immigrants line family members up to attain legal status and the diversity visa lottery are not included in the amendment that moderates plan to offer.
"That is not within the simple amendment. It's being discussed and it will be offered in a version but I think the version that has the chance for the 60 votes is what I described," Nelson said, adding that Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake's plan to clear a backlog of people currently waiting for visas by using visas currently doled out in the diversity lottery won't get enough Republican support.
"I don't think there's any way you get 60 votes for that," Nelson said. "I voted for comprehensive immigration but you're not going to get 11 Republicans even if you had all 49 Democrats."
Nelson also said the group of moderate Senators hasn't engaged in discussions with House leaders about their amendment getting enough support in the more conservative lower chamber if it passes the Senate.
"We're trying to get 60 votes to get there with Senate," Nelson said. "You've got to get to first base before you can get to second base."
A group of Senate conservatives are also expected introduce an amendment that mirrors Trump's preferred immigration framework. The framework includes a path to citizenship for 1.8 million DACA-eligible immigrants in exchange for funding a wall, ending "chain-migration" and limiting the number of visas available to legal immigrants. Trump's framework is not expected to receive 60 votes in the Senate.