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 McCainTrump administration weakens methane pollution standards for drilling on public lands Another recession could hit US in 2019, says credit union association chief R-E-S-P-E-C-T: One legacy of Franklin and McCain is up to us 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.”

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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 SchumerTrump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation 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 Graham GOP senator: Kavanaugh accuser 'moving the goalposts' Collins: Kavanaugh accuser should 'reconsider,' testify on Monday Grassley willing to send staff to California to speak with Kavanaugh accuser MORE (R-S.C.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGrassley to administration: You must consult Congress on refugee cap Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan group wants to lift Medicaid restriction on substance abuse treatment MORE (D-Ill.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRubio unloads on Turkish chef for 'feasting' Venezuela's Maduro: 'I got pissed' For Poland, a time for justice Judiciary Democrat calls for additional witnesses to testify on Kavanaugh MORE (R-Fla.), Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDems urge tech companies to remove 3D-gun blueprints Dem senators introduce resolution calling on Trump to stop attacking the press Booming economy has Trump taking a well-deserved victory lap MORE (D-N.J.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetOvernight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan senators unveil proposal to crack down on surprise medical bills Multiple NFL players continue on-field protests during national anthem MORE (D-Colo.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Key GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Gillibrand: Kavanaugh accuser shouldn't participate in 'sham' hearing 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 ReidKavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow Dems can’t ‘Bork’ Kavanaugh, and have only themselves to blame Dem senator: Confidential documents would 'strongly bolster' argument against Kavanaugh's nomination 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.