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 McCainMeghan McCain on Pelosi, McCarthy fight: 'I think they're all bad' Democrats seek to counter GOP attacks on gas prices Biden nominates Jeff Flake as ambassador to Turkey 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 SchumerChuck SchumerBiden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Schumer's moment to transform transit and deepen democracy Pelosi, Schumer vow climate action: 'It is an imperative' 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 GrahamThe 17 Republicans who voted to advance the Senate infrastructure bill Senate votes to take up infrastructure deal Senators say they have deal on 'major issues' in infrastructure talks MORE (R-S.C.), Dick DurbinDick DurbinBiden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report GOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate Democrats ramp up pressure for infrastructure deal amid time crunch MORE (D-Ill.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDemocrats join GOP in pressuring Biden over China, virus origins Senators introduce bipartisan bill to expand foreign aid partnerships GOP lawmakers request Cuba meeting with Biden MORE (R-Fla.), Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezLobbying world This week: Congress starts summer sprint The Innovation and Competition Act is progressive policy MORE (D-N.J.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetLawmakers can't reconcile weakening the SALT cap with progressive goals How Sen. Graham can help fix the labor shortage with commonsense immigration reform For true American prosperity, make the child tax credit permanent MORE (D-Colo.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeBiden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Biden to nominate Jane Hartley as UK ambassador: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Voting rights will be on '22, '24 ballots 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 ReidWhite House seeks to shield Biden from GOP attacks on crime issue Lobbying world Warner backing 'small carve-out' on filibuster for voting rights 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.