Many of the Sunday morning talking head programs focused on the National Security Agency’s surveillance program, but some did look at comprehensive immigration reform, specifically Republican support, or lack thereof, for the Senate “Gang of Eight” bill.
The top story was Republican New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte on CBS Face the Nation confirming that she is supporting the Senate “Gang of Eight” comprehensive immigration reform bill. She told Bob Schieffer that the bill was a “good bipartisan solution” to fix a broken immigration system, including a “tough but fair way for the 11 million [undocumented] to come out of the shadows.” Ayotte praised the bill’s inclusion of border security measures, E-verify, high tech worker visas and making the undocumented go to the “back of the line,” pay taxes, pass criminal background checks, and learn English. The 6th GOP Senator to publicly support the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, said it doesn’t need to be filibustered by members of her party. “The status quo is unacceptable,” she told Schieffer.
Republican Rand Paul from Kentucky was less enthusiastic about the “Gang of Eight” plan when interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. While Paul agreed with Ayotte, saying the current system is broken, he feels the bill doesn’t go far enough in securing the United States border with Mexico. Wallace challenged Paul by saying that compromise was needed in terms of border security and a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented in order to pass immigration reform. Paul responded by positioning himself as the “conduit” between conservatives in the House and more moderate folks in the Senate. “They are going to have to come to me and they are gonna have to work with me if they want to make the bill stronger,” Paul told Wallace.
On Spanish language network Univision’s Al Punto, Republican Florida Senator and Gang of Eight member Marco Rubio told María Elena Salinas one of the gang of 8 that they don’t have the 60 votes needed to pass the immigration reform bill but that they would if additional, more specific border security measures were added to insure against “another wave of undocumented immigration.” Salinas challenged Rubio’s assertion that the bill doesn’t going far enough, citing current record breaking spending on the US Mexico border and the provisions in the current version of his own bill.
“What more do Republicans want?” Salinas asked.
“It’s not just Republicans, it’s some Democrats too who want to know what border areas would be getting more fencing, more towers etc. so that we reduce waste and don’t make the mistakes of the past. While some areas of the border are secure there are some that are not, like the area near Tucson,” Rubio responded. Rubio also claimed that legalization in the current bill is not conditional and affirmed that in the Gang of Eight bill, the undocumented could work and have legal status but would be subject to a 10 year bar in terms of accessing health care via the Affordable Care Act.
Republican Senator and Gang of Eight member John McCain also appeared on Al Punto where he told Maria Elena Salinas that he agreed that the border is more secure than before. But McCain also said that more undocumented immigrants are entering the United States as the economy betters. In terms of the prospects of the bill passing, McCain said, “I can’t promise 100 votes but I can say we will have more than 60.”
Debate on the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act is scheduled to begin in the Senate on Tuesday. Conservative commentator George Will told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s this week, that he expected numerous amendments to be introduced to “clog up the process.”