McCain, House Republicans headed for clash on immigration reform

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainRubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts The VA's woes cannot be pinned on any singular administration Overnight Defense: Mattis offers support for Iran deal | McCain blocks nominees over Afghanistan strategy | Trump, Tillerson spilt raises new questions about N. Korea policy MORE (R-Ariz.) is on a collision course with House conservatives over immigration reform.

Throughout his Senate career, McCain has clashed with House Republican lawmakers over high-profile issues, including campaign finance reform, detainee interrogation techniques, earmarks and tax cuts. This year, McCain has ripped Republicans in the lower chamber for not agreeing to enter into a budget conference with the Senate.

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Some political observers believe it’s just a matter of time before McCain aggressively goes after House GOP members for not voting on the Senate-passed immigration measure.

The five-term senator has stopped short of criticizing Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew Boehner‘Lone wolf’ characterization of mass murderers is the epitome of white privilege Pelosi urges Ryan to create select committee on gun violence Ex-congressman Michael Grimm formally announces bid for old seat MORE’s (R-Ohio) vow to move immigration reform only if a majority of House GOP lawmakers are on board. Yet, McCain made a pointed comment last weekend that suggested he would only bite his tongue for so long.

“I really don’t feel it's appropriate for me to tell [John BoehnerJohn Andrew Boehner‘Lone wolf’ characterization of mass murderers is the epitome of white privilege Pelosi urges Ryan to create select committee on gun violence Ex-congressman Michael Grimm formally announces bid for old seat MORE] exactly how he should handle this. But I think Republicans realize the implications for the future of the Republican Party in America if we don't get this issue behind us,” McCain said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who strongly opposes the Senate bill, took issue with McCain’s warning, but said he expects the 2008 GOP presidential nominee to continue challenging conservatives on the airwaves.

“Most of what [McCain] will do, in my anticipation is through the media. … He likes to drop a little bomb and watch how people will react, and he’ll do it again,” King said in an interview with The Hill.

King said McCain “should have learned his lesson” when he tried to pass immigration reform with the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).

McCain's office did not respond to comment for this article.

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Crying on TV doesn't qualify Kimmel to set nation's gun agenda Trump knocks ‘fake’ news coverage of his trip to Puerto Rico MORE (D-N.Y.) teamed up with McCain and six other senators to craft the immigration bill, which includes a pathway to citizenship.

Schumer has predicted that by the end of this year, the House will vote on the Senate-passed immigration measure. McCain and Schumer have forged a close relationship over the last six months.

Jim Manley, a former senior staffer for Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies Republicans are headed for a disappointing end to their year in power Obama's HHS secretary could testify in Menendez trial MORE (D-Nev.), pointed out the stark differences between the GOP-led House and Democratic-controlled Senate.

“The idea of compromise that Sen. McCain and others are pushing is at odds with a great majority of where the House Republican caucus is right now. [House Republicans] see compromise as a dirty word and they sure as heck don’t trust the Senate,” the Quinn & Gillespie Associates Public Affairs senior director said.

Manley added that if McCain “were to ratchet up the pressure, I think it would be counterproductive.”

A few House Republicans, including Reps. Ted PoeTed PoeA bipartisan solution to stopping drive-by lawsuits Harvey response puts squeeze on GOP US Senate must follow House lead in combating human trafficking MORE (Texas), Randy ForbesRandy ForbesTrump makes little headway filling out Pentagon jobs Why there's only one choice for Trump's Navy secretary Trump likely to tap business executive to head Navy: report MORE (Va.) and Walter Jones (N.C.), didn’t endorse McCain in the 2008 general election.

House Republicans are pressing for stronger border security provisions, but proponents of the Senate measure, including McCain, have strongly defended the upper chamber’s provisions on the issue.

McCain helped lead the effort to kill Senate Minority Whip John CornynJohn CornynGun proposal picks up GOP support House bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance Republicans jockey for position on immigration MORE’s (R-Texas) border-security amendment. McCain called the amendment “a poison pill.”

The 76-year-old senator has not been shy in criticizing members of his party.

In 2004, McCain engaged in a high profile back and forth with then-Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) over tax cuts.

At the time, the U.S. was engaged in battles on two fronts: Afghanistan and Iraq. McCain blasted the House GOP for seeking to cut taxes when the deficit was ballooning.

McCain charged, “As mind-boggling as expanding Medicare [to include a prescription drug benefit] has been, nothing tops my confusion for cutting taxes during wartime. I don’t remember ever in the history of warfare when we cut taxes.”

Asked about McCain's attack, Hastert responded at the time, “Who? Where's he from? A Republican?”

A source who has worked with McCain said, “It’s easy to assume that because he enjoys the spotlight, that he requires it, but that's not necessarily the case. [McCain] is smart enough to realize that it’s to the benefit of the legislation for other people to take the lead. He’s more than willing to let that happen.”

The source, who requested anonymity, stressed that he has no direct knowledge of McCain’s current thinking.

Former Hastert communications director John Feehery said McCain knows how to legislate.

“McCain knows the legislative process, and he knows that the game is trying to get to [a House-Senate] conference, and the House has to find its own way to get to conference,” said Feehery, a columnist for The Hill.

“I think the best messenger to House conservatives is [Sen.] Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Tillerson, Trump deny report of rift | Tillerson says he never considered resigning | Trump expresses 'total confidence' in secretary | Rubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad Rubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts GOP establishment doubts Bannon’s primary powers MORE [R-Fla.], not John McCain,” said Feehery, who added that former Rep. and now-Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeAuthorizing military force is necessary, but insufficient Republicans jockey for position on immigration McCain, Flake warn against 'politically-motivated penalties' for Canadian defense firm MORE (R-Ariz.) could also play a pivotal role.