The opposing leaders of the U.S. Senate shared a stage at the University of Louisville on Monday, the same day the chamber is set to begin an open debate on bills dealing with immigration.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tried to reassure an audience of mostly students that the Senate would be able to navigate a divided political climate to find solutions.
But Schumer still said the immigration debate would be a test for lawmakers.
“We’re all going to try because of the gravity of the issues at stake,” said Schumer, a Democrat from New York. “But we know that this week will be a test of whether the Senate can steer the ship of state through the stormiest of waters.”
The event came days after Congress narrowly passed a bipartisan temporary spending bill, which was opposed by Sen. Rand Paul for raising spending and adding to the country’s deficit.
McConnell has said he will open up debate on immigration proposals — allowing Senators to vote on a wide spectrum of measures that would need to get 60 out of 100 votes to pass.
The move comes ahead of a March 5 deadline when roughly 700,000 immigrants enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are slated to lose legal protections.
McConnell tried to smooth over worries that political divisions would stymie Congress.
“Robust debate is not unusual, it’s been going on in this country for a very long time,” McConnell said. “But, at every critical moment in this country, we’ve come together to do what needed to be done to move the ball down the field.”
Schumer was invited as part of a speaking series at U of L’s McConnell Center.