Mitch McConnell gave conservatives their shot Tuesday—a vote on a tough bill that would roll back President Obama's immigration policies. Now he has a choice to make.
A House-passed Department of Homeland Security funding bill failed to overcome a procedural vote, getting only 51 of the 60 votes needed to stay alive in the Senate. The measure would block Obama's executive action on immigration and place "Dreamers" and millions of other immigrants back at risk of deportation.
The vote sets up McConnell's biggest test so far as the newly minted Senate majority leader. He'll have to try to cobble together a new coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats to pass a DHS funding bill before the Feb. 27 deadline to avoid a department shutdown. Whether he'll move forward that way, however, or continue going head-to-head with the White House is a question neither he nor his fellow Republicans can answer yet.
Sen. John McCain said he has personally sat in on "at least 20 discussions" about how to proceed when the House bill inevitably failed.
"Nobody really has a strategy yet, I am sorry to say," McCain said. "I have heard about 300 options, none of them so far viable."
A united Senate Democratic caucus stood against the House-passed bill Tuesday, making it impossible to overcome the 60-vote threshold McConnell needed. Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada was the only Republican defection on the bill.