Senate group reaches immigration deal – Manu Raju – POLITICO.com
A powerful group of senators from both parties has reached a deal on the outlines of a comprehensive immigration overhaul, a development that will drive an emotional debate on a hot-button issue unseen in Washington for more than half a decade.
The group is expected to unveil the basics of its proposal at a Monday news conference on Capitol Hill, essentially laying down a marker on the issue one day before President Barack Obama heads to Las Vegas to unveil more details about his own immigration proposal.
According to a five-page document provided to POLITICO, the sweeping proposal — agreed to in principle by eight senators — would seek to overhaul the legal immigration system as well as create a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s roughly 11 million illegal immigrants. But establishing that pathway would depend on whether the U.S. first implements stricter border enforcement measures and new rules ensuring immigrants have left the country in compliance with their visas. Young people brought to the country as children illegally and seasonal agriculture industry workers would be given a faster path to citizenship.
The broad agreement by the influential Gang of Eight senators amounts to the most serious bipartisan effort to act on the highly charged issue since George W. Bush’s comprehensive measure was defeated in the Senate in 2007.
It remains to be seen if Obama will embrace the Senate effort, or how closely his own proposal hews to the Senate one. But the Senate proposal is expected to take precedence on Capitol Hill, given that bipartisan backing will be crucial to getting anything through the Democratic-controlled Senate — let alone the Republican-controlled House.
The bipartisan coalition includes influential Democrats such as Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the No. 3 in the leadership. It also has the backing of Sen. Bob Menendez, the Cuban-American Democrat from New Jersey poised to be chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. And it has the support of Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, the new chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Republican heavy-hitters also have signed onto the deal’s framework, including two veterans of the bruising 2007 effort: Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. But it also won the support of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a rising GOP star and possible future presidential candidate. And the freshman Arizona Republican, Jeff Flake, who endorsed similar comprehensive plans during his House tenure, has also backed the proposal.
House Republicans are likely to be a tougher sell, but Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) recently endorsed Rubio’s approach and could be an important partner in selling the legislation to conservatives.
Many of the details have yet to be worked out since the plan has not yet been turned into legislation. There are bound to be fights within the group and off Capitol Hill as the legislative process begins in earnest, and it’s unclear whether the bipartisan group can stick together.