Gang of Eight vows to stay united, defeat immigration reform poison pills

Gang of Eight vows to stay united, defeat immigration reform poison pills

Members of the Senate’s Gang of Eight say they are open to amending the 844-page immigration reform bill they unveiled this week but will band together to defeat poison-pill amendments.

“We expect and welcome suggested improvements to the bill by our colleagues,” Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainEx-Montenegro leader fires back at Trump: ‘Strangest president' in history McCain: Trump plays into 'Putin's hands' by attacking Montenegro, questioning NATO obligations Joe Lieberman urges voters to back Crowley over Ocasio-Cortez in general MORE (R-Ariz.) said at a press conference Thursday. “We will oppose only those amendments that are intended to prevent a comprehensive solution from passing.”

Business groups want to increase the number of visas for immigrant workers while labor unions want to speed up the path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants.

Democratic and Republican members of the gang, though, pledged unity to fend off attacks on the bill from the right and the left.

A bipartisan coalition of senators made a similar pledge in 2007, the last time the Senate debated comprehensive immigration reform.

The agreement broke down, however, as some members of the group voted for amendments that others called poison pills. Members also squabbled over the characterization of amendments and some Democrats complained that then-Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) was often too quick to label a proposed change a poison pill to protect his work from revisions.

Members of the gang described a difficult negotiation process that at several points appeared on the verge of failure.

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats slam Trump for considering Putin’s ’absurd’ request to question Americans Judge Kavanaugh confounds the left This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation MORE (D-N.Y.) said negotiations over a new class of visas for low-skilled immigrant workers, a hot point of contention between business and labor groups, was especially intense.

The group held 24 meetings before finalizing legislation, which it introduced this week. The other members are Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump’s damage control falters Trump: 'I think I did great at the news conference' George Will calls Trump ‘sad, embarrassing wreck of a man’ MORE (R-S.C.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDeal to fix family separations hits snag in the Senate Senate Democrats block resolution supporting ICE Senate Dems press for info on any deals from Trump-Putin meeting MORE (D-Ill.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s walk-back fails to stem outrage on Putin meeting The Memo: Trump allies hope he can turn the page from Russian fiasco Senate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash MORE (R-Fla.), Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezCNN anchors break into laughter over comedian's alleged prank call to Trump Comedian claims he tricked Trump while impersonating Dem senator Schumer: Obama 'very amenable' to helping Senate Dems in midterms MORE (D-N.J.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetHarley stunner spikes tension with Trump over trade policy Races to watch in Tuesday’s primaries Democrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor MORE (D-Colo.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeHillicon Valley: EU hits Google with record B fine | Trump tries to clarify Russia remarks | Sinclair changing deal to win over FCC | Election security bill gets traction | Robocall firm exposed voter data Overnight Defense: More Trump drama over Russia | Appeals court rules against Trump on transgender ban | Boeing wins Air Force One contract | Military parade to reportedly cost M Senate resolution backs intelligence community on Russian meddling MORE (R-Ariz.).

Schumer said he expects additional obstacles.

“Today is just the beginning of our voyage. It will be long and arduous. There will be perils we can’t even anticipate but we start off with optimism because this bipartisan agreement gives us a sturdy ship to ride out the stormy seas ahead,” he said.

Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, who attended the press event, said the contentious issue of the future flow of immigrant labor poses the biggest threat to the bill. He noted it scuttled the Senate immigration bill six years ago.

Schumer said the Judiciary Committee will mark up the legislation beginning the first week of May and Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSenate GOP breaks record on confirming Trump picks for key court Don’t worry (too much) about Kavanaugh changing the Supreme Court Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick MORE (D-Nev.) has pledged to bring it to the Senate floor no later than June.

The Judiciary panel will hold hearings on the bill Friday and Monday.