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Monday, March 04, 2013

‘Gang of Eight’ continue despite sequester battle

azcentral.com



WASHINGTON - Capitol Hill was fixated last week on the sequestration that went into effect on Friday, but behind the scenes, the U.S. Senate’s so-called Gang of Eight pressed forward with its work on bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
The group of four Republican and four Democratic senators met three times last week, most recently on Thursday, U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., told The Arizona Republic.
“We’re working through the items one by one,” Flake said after Thursday’s meeting during an interview on the second floor of the Senate. “Sometimes we have to come back to them, but we’re progressing, and everyone is sticking together.”
Earlier in the week, U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., another member of the group, also reported general progress.
Some of the topics under discussion include border security, the future flow of immigrant labor and employer sanctions, he said.
“There are a lot issues involved, obviously, with immigration reform,” McCain said.
Flake said he didn’t think the unrelated bickering over the sequester and other fiscal matters will hurt the chances of the immigration legislation. The immigration bill is on track to be ready by the end of March, he said.
“I hope that this immigration thing can lead us to bipartisan agreements in other areas,” Flake said.
The other senators in the Gang of Eight are Democrats Charles Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado; and Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida.
In other developments:
McCain, Graham and Flake went to the U.S. House on Thursday to brief U.S. House members working on immigration reform.
That meeting also went well, Flake said.
“We came away more encouraged, I think, than any of us expected,” he told The Republic.
Last month, the four GOP members of Arizona’s U.S. House delegation — Reps. Trent Franks, Paul Gosar, Matt Salmon and David Schweikert — sent a letter to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in which they stressed that they could contemplate broader immigration reform only after the borders are secured. The Senate plan is to link border security with a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the United States.
“I think it was broad and general enough that it’s not detrimental” to Senate efforts, Flake said of the Feb.15 letter.
McCain and Graham met with President Barack Obama on Tuesday at the White House to discuss, among other issues, the bipartisan immigration-reform effort.
“We were pleased to hear the President state his firm commitment that he will do whatever is necessary to accomplish this important goal,” McCain and Graham said in a joint statement.

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