Make way for a new Gang of Eight. An octet of senators has begun to meet to discuss immigration reform, multiple sources told POLITICO. It’s a possible sign of progress on what’s expected to be a top legislative priority on Capitol Hill next year. Sources said the fledgling group’s members include: Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, and Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah and Sen.-elect Jeff Flake of Arizona.
Some of the senators are already publicly teaming up on the issue. For instance, Schumer announced on “Meet the Press” shortly after the election that he and Graham were joining forces again on immigration, reviving talks from 2010 when the duo had outlined a four-point comprehensive reform proposal.
Several of the members have been key voices on immigration in the past. McCain was a top negotiator in Congress’s last major attempt at comprehensive immigration reform five years ago. Flake drafted an immigration overhaul plan in 2007 with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.). And Durbin is one of Congress’s most vocal advocates of the DREAM Act.
Schumer and Lee also coauthored an immigration proposal last year that was designed to attract foreign investors to purchase property and live in the United States.
Legislative leaders in both parties have said they want to tackle immigration reform in the next Congress. And President Barack Obama made clear in an interview shortly before his reelection that the issue would be a top priority of his in a second term.
“I am fairly confident that they’re going to have a deep interest in getting that done,” Obama said of Republicans in an interview with the Des Moines Register. “And I want to get it done because it’s the right thing to do, and I’ve cared about this ever since I ran back in 2008.”