Sens. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ), the two lead negotiators in the Senate’s Gang of Eight immigration reform group, said that they believe their immigration reform bill will not just have a filibuster proof majority in the Senate—but majority support from both parties and the president. “We have met with the president and he supports strongly our efforts. He doesn’t agree with every part of the bill, but he recognizes that it is a careful compromise with concessions on all sides,” McCain said. Both senators spoke at the U.S. Chamber’s Reforming Immigration for a Better America event on April 26. (watch the webcast).
McCain acknowledged that there would be changes to the Senate bill, “This is the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end.” The most contentious provisions, Graham said, will be around low and high-skilled visa programs and access to legal labor. “There will be efforts from the left and the right,” to change the caps on those workers.
The new W Visa for low-skilled workers would start at 20,000 and eventually reach 200,000. The Senate bill also raises the national cap on employment visas for high-skilled foreigners from 65,000 per year to 110,000 per year, with the ability to rise to 180,000 per year under certain economic circumstances.
Nevertheless, both senators expressed confidence that the bill would pass the Senate with 70 votes, building momentum for House passage.
Rep. Ted Poe, vice chairman of the House immigration subcommittee and chair of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, said he had misgivings about the Senate approach to dealing with a massive immigration bill and thinks a better way is to have several smaller measures addressing different aspects. He expects the House to deal with as many as 5 to 8 separate, smaller immigration bills, starting with the definition of what constitutes “operational control” of a secure border. “We must methodically look at each of the various components that need to be fixed before we move on,” Poe said.
Business leaders attending the Chamber event, including Mark Peters of Caterpillar Inc., Robin Paulino of Microsoft, and Ken Kimbro of Tyson Foods Inc., voiced support for the Senate proposal. “There is a strong, collective voice from the business community on this issue,” said Peter Schiron, assistant general counsel at Deloitte LLP.
“There is no doubt that there will be additional input and analysis through Senate hearings and amendments. That’s how it should be. We support a transparent and open process and debate,” Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue told the packed room. “Given the broad support this bill has garnered from business and labor … from conservatives and liberals … and from faith-based and civil groups, I’m optimistic that this time we have an excellent chance at getting immigration reform done.”