Key Dem: "We are very close" to a bipartisan immigration bill
US Republican Senator from Arizona John McCain and Demoratic Senator from New York Chuck Schumer speak during a press conference on an agreement for principles on comprehensive immigration reform framework at the US Capitol in Washington on January 28, 2013. / SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
In a Congress riven by strife, the ongoing bipartisan negotiations on immigration reform stand out as a rare bright spot - an issue on which the parties are working together constructively, even eagerly. And today, a key lawmaker involved in that process said that negotiators are "very close to an agreement" on a comprehensive immigration reform package.
"We expect to meet our goal of having comprehensive immigration reform, supported by all eight of us, by the end of March," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. "We are on track."
"It's a long, hard road," he added. "I understand peoples' frustration, people have waited a long time, but we are real close for the first time in coming up with a bipartisan agreement that has a darn good chance of becoming law...we'll need all the support we can get.
The negotiators, in addition to Schumer, include three Democrats - Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.; Richard Durbin, D-Ill.; and Michael Bennet, D-Col. - and four Republicans - Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; and John McCain, R-Ariz.
The eight men have worked for the last several months on an immigration bill that would couple reforms of the current immigration system with a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently living in America. Although many specifics remain up in the air, the broad outlines of an agreement have emerged: strengthen border security, increase legal immigration to admit more high-skilled workers, set up a better system for employers to verify the immigration status of their employees, and construct a pathway to citizenship that would eventually confer citizenship to undocumented residents after a qualification process.
It's a road several of these negotiators have traveled before: in 2010, Schumer and McCain reached an agreement that largely mirrored the parameter's of today's negotiations, but the bill was scuttled by partisan gridlock in Congress. And between 2005 and 2006, McCain worked with the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., on a compromise package that eventually failed despite the support of then-President George W. Bush.
The House of Representatives is moving forward with its own bipartisan effort on immigration reform, developing a proposal that mostly reflects the balance struck by Senate negotiators.
President Obama has called for an immigration bill post-haste, elevating the item to the top of his second-term agenda.
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