The bills differed on other details. One provided nothing for a wall on the southern border; a second provided $25 billion for border security; a third, supported by the Trump White House, proposed aggressive limits on further legal immigration and money for a wall.
Sen. Jerry Moran, a Republican from Kansas, voted no all three times.
After the measures failed, Moran and two GOP colleagues offered a different proposal. It would cover only the 690,000 immigrants now enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.
The measure would extend DACA indefinitely, although recipients would have to sign up every two years. It would not provide a citizenship path.
It also sets aside $25 billion in a trust fund to build “not fewer than 700 miles of reinforced fencing,” and pay for other border security measures.
It isn’t clear if the Moran plan will ever get a vote. It’s also apparent the measure falls far short of what President Donald Trump has said he’ll sign.
That suggests America’s tangled argument over immigration remains knotted. Despite years of debate, your elected representatives still seem unable to find anything close to an agreement on a problem that has plagued the country for decades.
Partisanship is partly to blame. GOP Sens. Pat Roberts and Roy Blunt voted with the White House Thursday, opposing both bipartisan immigration plans but supporting the tougher Trump bill.
Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill did the opposite: She voted yes on the more liberal bills, no on the Trump measure.
But the congressional stalemate over immigration tells us something more worrisome. It says Congress has moved past dysfunction to pure anti-function.
After 13 months, the 115th Congress has accomplished two things: a massive, deficit-exploding tax cut, and a massive, deficit-exploding spending agreement. Everything else is on hold.
And members of that Congress, now heading home for a district work period, seem unperturbed by that lackluster record.
Immigration is a tough issue. Infrastructure repairs, gun violence and health system reform are tough issues, too. They’ll require a genuine commitment to compromise.
Sadly, that commitment seems to have disappeared from the nation’s capital. If you run into any members of Congress this week, you might point that out to them.