Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said on Monday that “overall” he was inclined to support President Donald Trump’s immigration framework, the latest sign that the vulnerable incumbent is siding with the president in the legislative trenches of Congress.
While Heller did not outright say he would vote for the president’s proposal, he said in an interview that it was his “starting point” going into the immigration debate in the Senate. The move to support Trump will probably nullify some of the criticism from his conservative primary opponent, Danny Tarkanian, though it’s likely to be panned by Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is challenging Heller.
“I look favorably upon it. We’ll see the details of it. But, yes, overall I do” support it, Heller said. “I have a tendency to support what the president’s trying to do, and that’s probably the position that’s closest to where I am.”
Heller is the only Republican senator up for re-election in a state won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. He has often projected a moderate stance on immigration, including voting for the Gang of Eight’s comprehensive bill in 2013. But supporting Trump on immigration may be useful heading into a primary challenge from Tarkanian after Heller was criticized by Republicans for his opposition to the GOP’s plans to repeal Obamacare last summer.
“I’m not worried about it,” Heller said of the close political scrutiny of his role. “I’m here to try and to find a solution to this problem. And we’re going to find a solution.”
Trump’s position has drawn stern criticism from Democrats for cutting legal immigration and providing $25 billion in border security and the building of a wall while offering a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants — a far smaller number than the 2013 Gang of Eight’s pathway to citizenship for most of the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.
The Trump framework is likely to fail because of Democratic opposition, so a group of bipartisan senators has been meeting to find a fallback plan. Heller is keeping those talks at arm’s length despite his history as an immigration reformer who can work across the aisle.
“They asked for some of my input,” Heller said. “I gave ’em some ideas but didn’t have time to meet with them.”