McCain: Media leaks damaging Gang of 8 immigration talks

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Thursday said leaks to the media have hurt the progress of the Senate’s closed-door talks on immigration reform.

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McCain said the leaks are damaging because they don’t give the public the whole picture of how the negotiations are proceeding. 

He is a member of the Gang of Eight senators involved in protracted discussions over an immigration deal that the group hopes will be completed by the end of the month.

“I’m not discussing what we’re discussing,” said McCain to reporters gathered near the Senate’s subway.

“One of the things, frankly, that has hurt us, is the selective leaks that have gone on. It’s been very unhelpful to the progress we’ve been trying to make," he said. 

“Sometimes the leaks are accurate. Sometimes they’re inaccurate. Sometimes they have to do with ongoing discussions we’re having. It never helps to have selective leaks on any issue that I’ve ever been involved in, until you get the final product and then everybody has a whole picture.”

The other members of the group are Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). 

Leaks from the senators have been minimal and revealed only how the talks are developing, with little mention of the details. 

Republicans have heavily criticized the White House's leak last month of a draft copy of the president's immigration proposal. 

Earlier Thursday, Schumer told reporters that the group was meeting for several hours over the course of the day and had made significant progress.

A sticking point for the senators is how to deal with differing opinions on the number of high-skilled temporary guest-worker visas to grant. 

Senators are considering raising the current cap on visas from 65,000, which does not include an additional 20,000 for immigrants with advanced educational degrees.

Another problem arose on Thursday when a spokesman for the Building and Construction Trades Department at the AFL-CIO said that the union does not support the Chamber of Commerce’s desire to increase the number of low-skilled guest worker visas that are granted. The union spokesman told CQ Roll Call that expanding the number of “W” visas would hurt American construction workers.

McCain said the Gang of Eight’s final proposal would not please everyone and that each side needs to compromise.  

“I’m sure that whatever we agree to will not satisfy anyone, because we have to make compromises in order to get a broad bipartisan agreement,” McCain said. “I’m sure that everyone will want something better.”