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Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

A bipartisan group of senators that met privately Wednesday agreed to have their staffs draft a document outlining incremental immigration changes so they "can build from there," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told Axios.

Why it matters: The Republicans and Democrats recognize that Congress has failed numerous times to pass comprehensive reform, so now they're looking for a starting point amid a migrant surge at the southern border.

Behind the scenes: The group, led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), met behind closed doors in the Mansfield Room, steps away from the Senate floor.

  • Attendees included Cornyn and Durbin, as well as Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
  • Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) called in.
  • The biggest areas of consensus were protections for so-called Dreamers and preserving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), according to a source familiar with the discussion.

What they're saying: "I was making the argument, and I think people generally understand, that we're not going to do comprehensive immigration reform on this," Cornyn told Axios.

  • "We do incremental a lot better," he added. "Unfortunately, there's not a lot of trust. But I think if we did something that is pretty much consensus, like DACA, then that would be confidence-building, and then we'd kind of move on to the next."
  • Durbin said: “We did not reach any conclusions. ... We put many ideas on the table. And we're going to invite the administration to look at them and join us in this conversation."
  • "I think we agree on a bipartisan basis that we've got to reform the system, as far as we can take it," Durbin added.

Yes, but: There's already one hiccup.

  • While Durbin told reporters he sees the immigration bills that recently passed in the Democratic-controlled House as "starting points,” most Republicans see them as non-starters.
  • "I think that'd be a mistake. There wouldn't be any support for the House bills," Cornyn told Axios.

Go deeper

Jul 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Infrastructure bills face House chaos

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries arrives for a House vote last month. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The infrastructure agreement cinched Wednesday by senators faces several changes in the House before it — and a companion reconciliation bill — have any chance of becoming law.

Why it matters: The myopic focus on the bipartisan group of Senate negotiators overlooks House progressives and others ready to pounce. They have the ability to quash any deal, given the narrow Democratic margins not only in the Senate but also the House.

Kate Marino, author of Markets
49 mins ago - Economy & Business

Omicron outbreaks were bad for business in January

Data: New York Federal Reserve Bank; Chart: Axios Visuals

Emerging anecdotal evidence shows just how hard the recent rise in COVID-19 cases hit businesses in early January — but that hasn't hurt some business leaders’ longer-term views on their companies' prospects.

Why it matters: Increasingly, the economic recovery has come in fits and starts that move in tandem with new peaks in cases. Look no further than the thousands of cancelled flights and shuttered Broadway theaters in the wake of the Omicron variant's spread over the last few months.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
1 hour ago - Health

The shifting definition of fully vaccinated

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The definition of what it means to be "fully vaccinated" is evolving even as the CDC has remained careful not to officially change it.

Why it matters: CDC officials have been balancing the job of convincing Americans who've already gotten two doses of the importance of boosters with getting many Americans who still need their first doses to get their shots at all.