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Eight Potholes for 'Gang of Eight' Immigration Bill

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Graham and other senators in the “gang of eight” say the immigration plan will be budget-neutral, using fees to pay for new spending.

The “gang of eight” senators rolling out a bipartisan immigration overhaul this week are gearing up for the battle to formally be joined at the Senate Judiciary Committee and ultimately on the floor this summer.

The senators are expressing optimism that a bill resembling their package will ultimately become law, and President Barack Obama reiterated on Tuesday his commitment to getting a deal passed.

Sens. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and John McCain, R-Ariz., briefed Obama at the White House on Tuesday about the group’s immigration compromise. They spoke with the president about the trigger in the bill, which Obama does not like but which McCain and Schumer believe is essential to not only passing a bill but getting public support.

After the meeting, the senators exuded confidence that some form of the package will become reality. Schumer said Judiciary hearings will begin Friday and that the bill could be on the floor in late May or June.

Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., sounded optimistic.

“We’ll have an opportunity to take a look at it, and hopefully it’ll provide a bipartisan way forward on a very important issue to the country,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday.

Still, the immigration stakeholders acknowledge that no shortage of potential pitfalls remain. At the same time, all are aware of the “now or never” sense of urgency that surrounds the issue and have raw memories of the last effort collapsing in 2007.

“If we fail this time, I don’t know when anybody would take this up. I mean, I said last time this was the last best chance in a decade. This may be the last chance forever,” gang of eight Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Tuesday. Here are just eight of the potholes that lie ahead for the immigration bill:

1. Congressional Budget Office Scoring

The recycling bins of Senate history are filled with well-intended bills that ran into trouble when scored by the CBO. While among the simplest hurdles, the question of how much a piece of legislation costs might be the most difficult to answer. Senators in the gang of eight say the plan will be budget-neutral, using fees to pay for new spending. “We intend to pay for it with fees and not add a burden on the taxpayers,” McCain said.

2. Will the Enforcement Really Happen?

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