McCain, House Republicans headed for clash on immigration reform

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCummings to lie in state at the Capitol Elizabeth Warren should concern Donald Trump 'bigly' Lawmakers toast Greta Van Susteren's new show 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.

ADVERTISEMENT
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 BoehnerIs Congress retrievable? Boehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush Meadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader 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 [BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerIs Congress retrievable? Boehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush Meadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader 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 SchumerTrump touts Turkey cease-fire: 'Sometimes you have to let them fight' Mattis responds to Trump criticism: 'I guess I'm the Meryl Streep of generals' Democrats vow to push for repeal of other Trump rules after loss on power plant rollback 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 Mason ReidTrump thanks Reid for warning Democrats not to underestimate him Reid warns Democrats not to underestimate Trump Harry Reid predicts Trump, unlike Clinton, won't become more popular because of impeachment 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 PoeLloyd (Ted) Theodore PoeSenate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion Texas New Members 2019 Cook shifts two House GOP seats closer to Dem column MORE (Texas), Randy ForbesJames (Randy) Randy ForbesToo much ‘can do,’ not enough candor Trump makes little headway filling out Pentagon jobs Why there's only one choice for Trump's Navy secretary 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 CornynTrump slams 'very dumb' O'Rourke for proposals on guns, tax exempt status for churches GOP cautions Graham against hauling Biden before Senate Succession at DHS up in the air as Trump set to nominate new head 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 RubioWhite House staggers after tumultuous 48 hours Erdoğan got the best of Trump, experts warn Hillicon Valley: GOP lawmakers offer election security measure | FTC Dem worries government is 'captured' by Big Tech | Lawmakers condemn Apple over Hong Kong censorship MORE [R-Fla.], not John McCain,” said Feehery, who added that former Rep. and now-Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump's GOP impeachment firewall holds strong How to survive an impeachment Are Senate Republicans certain that Trump can return to office? MORE (R-Ariz.) could also play a pivotal role.