McCain, Schumer put positive spin on House immigration plans

After an hours-long meeting with the whole House GOP Conference on Wednesday, House Republican leaders expressed their contempt for the comprehensive immigration reform package that passed in the Senate and suggested they won't get around to taking up their own immigration bills until the fall.

Nevertheless, the bipartisan leaders who shepherded the comprehensive immigration bill through the Senate said on Thursday they were encouraged by the House Republican meeting.

"If I had to choose a word for yesterday's House meeting, it would be 'encouraging'," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said outside of the White House, after meeting with President Obama and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to discuss immigration.

"Speaker Boehner and the Republican leadership realize that doing nothing is not an option," Schumer continued. "We realize their views are not the same as ours, but certainly the idea that they want to move forward on immigration reform is very, very encouraging... And second, it is realized in the House that they have to work with Democrats in the House to pass anything. There are enough Republicans who will just vote no on anything that this has to be a bipartisan effort in the House... and that means Democrats and Republicans in the House will have to be working together to move forward."

McCain also said he was "encouraged" by the House Republican talks, particularly by the interest that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has shown on the issue. Even though House Republicans are insisting on passing piecemeal immigration bills, rather than one comprehensive bill, McCain said he was hopeful the House and Senate could reconcile their approaches.

"We want legislation we can go to conference on," he said. "I think the Republican conference sent a message yesterday, and that is that they realized it must be addressed, they said we recognize the problem and are coming up with a solution."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters in a separate briefing Thursday that taking an incremental approach "allows the American people to have greater confidence we have our arms around what we're doing."

"Our members do believe we have to wrestle with this problem," he said. "They also believe we need to do this step-by-step, common sense approach."

In a statement Wednesday, Boehner and other House leaders slammed the Senate bill, comparing it to the Affordable Care Act -- the comprehensive health care law that House Republicans have tried to repeal nearly 40 times.

Schumer on Thursday said of the comparison, "Nothing could be further from the truth."

"I supported the president's health care bill, and I still do, but that was basically a Democratic effort," he explained. "It had no Republican support. McCain and Schumer would not be standing here together in favor of the ACA. And this bill has very broad support. It's bipartisan."

Even though the House doesn't expect to see its standalone bills on the floor before September, McCain said he wasn't that concerned about the long process.

"That leaves room for compromise and negotiation and results," he said.

In a separate Thursday press briefing, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., did express some concern.

"Why would we delay? Why don't we just get about the business of doing a bill?" she said. And I have said to the Speaker, I'm respectful of any way that he wants to bring it to the floor in parts or in whole or whatever it is, but we really should get moving on it and see where there's areas of agreement."

She added, however, that she's "ever optimistic. I believe that we will have immigration reform, for the simple reason that the American people want us to have it and that, if it doesn't happen in this year, it's unlikely that it's going to happen in an election year."

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