House Republicans are in no mood to be targeted by McCain, Democrat Chuck Schumer, and other members of the Senate "Gang of Eight," the bipartisan coalition that pushed immigration reform through the chamber.
“These people are wasting their money. They’re wasting their time, because the House is going to do what the House is going to do,” said a House GOP leadership aide.
And most likely, that means the House will take up bills dealing with border security, agriculture, and high-tech visas, and, maybe, providing the so-called Dreamers, children brought to America illegally, a legal option for staying in the country, aides say. But a pathway to citizenship for most immigrants in the country illegally, like the one included in the Senate bill, is probably a nonstarter.
In an interview, McCain said they’re trying to “persuade” House Republicans.
“It’s not a hardball or attack-ad kind of thing. We’re not trying to alienate any member of the House. The last thing we want to do is alienate any member of the House,” he said. “But we do think that we are not getting our message across in as effective a fashion as we can if we mount a real campaign.”
Supporters of comprehensive immigration reform are losing the grassroots battle to opponents who are describing the Senate bill as amnesty, McCain told the group, according to people in the room. McCain told the lobbyists not to push for the Senate bill, but to advocate for all its component parts.
Sen. Lindsey Graham told the group that if the House passes border security and Dreamer legislation, the Senate could then try to negotiate a comprehensive package with the House during a conference committee, attendees said.
The senators told lobbyists to focus on persuading House Republicans to let legislation come to the floor, even if it they end up voting against it—an attempt to end-run House Speaker John Boehner’s pledge not to bring anything to the floor that doesn’t have support from a majority of Republicans.
Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez added that any final bill would have to include pathway to citizenship. The meeting also included Gang of Eight members Jeff Flake, Michael Bennet, and Dick Durbin. Only GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, who has refused to pressure the House to act, was absent, leading lobbyists to refer to it as the “Gang of Seven” meeting.
The groups attending included FWD.us, the Partnership for a New Economy, ITI, TechNet, CompTIA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, Bible, Badges, and Business, Google, Microsoft, Intel, Facebook, Oracle, Cisco, Compete USA, Americans for Tax Reform, PhRMA, Texas Instruments, IBM, and the National Restaurant Association, according to people who were there.
At the meeting, the senators gave out a list of about 120 House Republicans who they believe could vote for some kind of reform and told the lobbyists to target them over the August recess.