The bipartisan group of eight senators drafting immigration overhaul legislation is still haggling over the details of its bill but hopes to make its self-imposed deadline of early April, members said Wednesday.
Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain, speaking at a press conference near the U.S. border in Nogales, Ariz., noted that the bill is being written in a bipartisan manner with the intention of winning as many votes as possible.
“Nobody is going to be totally happy with this legislation,” McCain said. “No one will be because we are having to make compromises, and that’s what makes for good legislation. It’s compromise that brings everybody together.”
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., who attended the press conference after touring the border at McCain’s invitation, said the gang of eight is “very close” to finalizing the bill.
“I’d say we are 90 percent there,” Schumer said. “We have a few little problems to work on; we’ve been on the phone all day talking to our other four colleagues who aren’t here.
“We are very hopeful that we will meet our deadline, we believe we will meet our deadline; we are on track to meet our deadline of having a bill when we get back to Congress in a couple of weeks,” Schumer said.
He declined to provide any other details of the negotiations.
“They wanted to come ... but they had already made plans for this recess,” McCain said.
Members of the group have been working on the bill since January and have been reluctant to give themselves a more specific deadline, arguing the package is complicated.
Nevertheless, pressure is mounting for Congress to act on the issue before the end of the summer. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., has said he intends to take up the bill as soon as possible, but has also expressed concern that the delay in unveiling a bill has made it difficult to clear the bill before the end of April.
President Barack Obama has also recently called on Congress to pick up the pace on immigration reform. Earlier this year he said he would put out his own bill if the Congressional process takes too long, but he has declined to say when exactly he wants to see a bill.
Schumer said the Nogales trip reinforced discussions with McCain and Flake that the border’s varied terrain requires different approaches and that one solution, such as building a fence, won’t work.
“We saw various, different types of fencing,” Schumer said. “And then we saw lots of areas where a fence wouldn’t be practical. ... So there is not one size that fits all.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.