President Barack Obama vowed Tuesday to “do whatever it takes” to drive a comprehensive overhaul of America’s immigration policies through a divided Congress. And a top Democratic backer of the proposal told reporters he expected the measure to reach the Senate floor later this spring with a vote hoped for soon after.
“We hope to introduce the bill tonight,” Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York said in the White House driveway after talks with Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, another pivotal supporter of the legislation.
The proposal would then face Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Friday and Monday and be in other committees “over the next few weeks," said Schumer. The Judiciary Committee would take up the bill for possible amendments in early May—an opportunity for Republican foes to try to scuttle it.
But if they don’t, “we hope to have the bill on the floor in late May, or early June,” Schumer told reporters. That would present another opportunity for opponents to defeat the measure, potentially with so-called poison pill amendments that would make it politically unpalatable.
But a vote could come soon after. If successful, that would set the stage for a fight in the Republican-led House of Representatives.
McCain thanked Obama for his support for the measure and said the president “realizes that everybody didn’t get what they wanted” in the compromise brokered by the so-called “Gang of Eight” senators.
“I am confident that at the end of the day that we will have a bill to the president’s desk” because all of the major players in immigration reform are on board, McCain said.
Schumer said that one thing Obama had not wanted was a trigger making a pathway to citizenship contingent on tighter border security -- a provision that is expected to be in the bill.
“I don’t want to give you the impression he was grudging about it, he was enthusiastic about us getting the bill done,” Schumer said, praising Obama for “moving us forward, but giving us the space” needed to craft a bill.
Some observers have noted that Republican opposition to Obama is so stiff that some in the GOP oppose the bill on principle if the president ties himself to it too closely.
In a written statement, Obama emphasized that "this bill is clearly a compromise, and no one will get everything they wanted, including me" but described it as "largely consistent" with his principles.
"I urge the Senate to quickly move this bill forward and, as I told Senators Schumer and McCain, I stand willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that comprehensive immigration reform becomes a reality as soon as possible," Obama said.