McConnell: Immigration bill needs 'major changes'

Later Tuesday, the Senate will vote on whether to proceed to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.

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The bipartisan group of eight senators, known as the Gang of Eight, introduced S. 744, which would create a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country, toughen border security, create a guest worker program and boost high-skilled immigration.

Some Republicans argue that the legislation would provide amnesty for the nearly 11 million residents in the country illegally without strengthening border enforcement. 

McConnell said more work needed to be done on at least three aspects of the bill: border security, government benefits and taxes.

“I’ll vote to debate it and for the opportunity to amend it, but in the days ahead, there will need to be major changes to this bill if it’s going to become law,” McConnell said. “These include, but are not limited to, the areas of border security, government benefits and taxes.”

Republicans have expressed concern that illegal immigrants waiting for legal status would have access to government benefits, such as ObamaCare and welfare.

McConnell said immigration reform is one of the many large issues facing the country and that the Senate should not delay action.

“Let me be clear: doing nothing about a problem we all acknowledge isn’t a solution. It’s an avoidance strategy,” McConnell said. “And the longer we wait to have this debate, as difficult as it is, the harder it’ll be to solve the problem.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he was “glad the minority leader recognizes that our immigration system is broken.” He said the Gang of Eight bill was a fair solution that would be good for national security and the economy.

The Gang of Eight is comprised of Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).