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McConnell: ‘Excellent Chance’ for a Bipartisan Immigration Bill in Senate

The Senate will take the lead in negotiating a comprehensive immigration overhaul, and there is “an excellent chance that the Senate will pass a bipartisan bill,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told CongressNow and Roll Call Friday.

“I was one of a minority of my party in the Senate who voted for final passage” of last year’s comprehensive plan, which passed by a 62-36 vote in May but never went to conference with an enforcement-focused House bill.

McConnell said he didn’t particularly like the measure, but said “I thought we ought to move it along,” adding that a lot of Republicans who did not vote for final passage were eager to do something about immigration.

To harness that interest, and to help reach a conclusion that satisfies Republicans, “there are meetings going on on the Republican side in addition to bipartisan meetings”, he said.

Meanwhile, Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and their staffs have been meeting to draw up a discussion draft based on last year’s Senate bill.

The strategy is to build behind-the-scenes support for the bill and then release the draft, according to a Democratic aide.

The discussion draft has provoked controversy even before its release. Several Republican Senators argued that they were frozen out of the drafting process. Drafters say bills are traditionally assembled by small groups, and that other Senators are kept updated by staff.

The fact there’s a disagreement is itself testament to the thorniness of the immigration issue, which only gets more contentious as lawmakers begin to focus on the details of any given proposal.

The 2006 Senate bill would have authorized investments in border security, created a guest-worker program and provided a “path to earned citizenship” for some of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants now in the United States.

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