Lawmakers caution on immigration optimism

After a tour of the Mexican border, members of a group of senators reframing the immigration law - (from left) John McCain (R., Ariz.), Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.), Michael Bennet (D., Colo.), and Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) - converge in Nogales, Ariz.
After a tour of the Mexican border, members of a group of senators reframing the immigration law - (from left) John McCain (R., Ariz.), Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.), Michael Bennet (D., Colo.), and Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) - converge in Nogales, Ariz. (ROSS FRANKLIN / AP)

Despite a breakthrough agreement, some say the bill sought by Obama is still far from a done deal.

Posted: April 02, 2013

WASHINGTON - Even with one of the largest hurdles to an immigration overhaul overcome, optimistic lawmakers on Sunday cautioned they had not finished work on a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants.

The AFL-CIO and the pro-business U.S. Chamber of Commerce reached a deal late Friday that would allow tens of thousands of low-skill workers into the country to fill jobs in construction, restaurants, and hotels. Yet despite the unusual agreement between the two powerful lobbying groups, lawmakers from both parties conceded that the negotiations were not finished.

"With the agreement between business and labor, every major policy issue has been resolved," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat who brokered the labor-business deal.

But it has not taken the form of a bill, and the eight senators searching for a compromise have not met about the potential breakthrough.

"We haven't signed off," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) said.

"There are a few details yet. But conceptually, we have an agreement between business and labor, between ourselves that has to be drafted," he added.

Yet just before lawmakers began appearing on Sunday shows, Sen. Marco Rubio warned he was not ready to lend his name - and political clout - to such a deal without hashing out the details.

"Reports that the bipartisan group of eight senators have agreed on a legislative proposal are premature," said Rubio, a Florida Republican who is among the lawmakers working on legislation.

Rubio, a Cuban American who is weighing a presidential bid in 2016, is a leading figure inside his party. Lawmakers will be closely watching any deal for his approval and his skepticism about the process did little to encourage optimism.

Rubio, who is the group's emissary to conservatives, called the agreement "a starting point" but said 92 senators from 43 states haven't yet been involved in the process.

The detente between the nation's leading labor federation and the powerful business lobbying group still needs senators' approval, including a nod from Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican whose previous efforts came up short.

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