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Gang of Eight Plans Immigration Push as Lawmakers Head on New York Jaunt

By Sandy Fitzgerald   |   Thursday, 18 Jul 2013 11:56 AM

Supporters of the Senate immigration overhaul bill are planning to use the August recess to compel reluctant House Republicans to support the legislation or at least come up with their own comprehensive measure that can be worked out in conference.

"We're not winning this fight," Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, one of the "Gang of Eight" authors of the Senate bill, told Politico. "They are mounting a better campaign than we are -- the opposition is."

McCain and other supporters of the legislation are planning to put pressure on House Republicans during the recess by using town hall meetings and other venues to make their case. Some Gang of Eight members have been working with corporations, nonprofits, faith groups, and other supporters of the Senate bill to compile a list of more than 100 GOP House members who may be persuaded to back immigration reform.

But optimism among reform advocates is fading, Politico reports, given the divisions within the House Republican Conference over the issue and what appears to be a lack of urgency on the part of GOP leaders to push it.

As McCain and other reform advocates gear for an August recess assault on House members, Majority Leader Eric Cantor is planning what his office calls a bipartisan "Becoming America" tour to spotlight both the historical and personal aspects of immigration.

The Virginia Republican and other leaders plan to visit New York later this month for a three-day trip that will focus on immigration and what it has meant to the country's development, reports Politico.

The House lawmakers' tour will take them to events on Ellis Island, the Museum of Jewish Heritage, and the African Burial Ground National Monument, and a naturalization ceremony.
The group will also meet with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an immigration reform advocate.

“It helps us to be removed from Washington and not be in the limelight of all that happens inside the Beltway,” Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), one of the tour leaders, said in an interview Wednesday.

“It gives us a chance to get outside, and what better place to go than New York City, symbolic of immigration for our country? It’s the epicenter of immigration.”

In addition to Crowley and Cantor, other participating lawmakers include Republicans Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, Fred Upton of Michigan, Michael Grimm, of New York, and Democrats Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona, Carolyn Maloney, of New York, and Barbara Lee, Lois Capps, and Susan Davis, all from California.

Last week, President Barack Obama met with McCain and New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer to press them on their strategy for the August break, reports The New York Times.

“These Republican House members — many of them are in districts that they will be representing for a long time — do not feel that they have been unduly pressured by the president of the United States,” McCain said after the meeting. “So I think the president is walking a careful line here, and I think it’s the appropriate one.”

McCain and Schumer brought in representatives from high-tech firms, faith organizations and business groups to the Capitol Tuesday to discuss the August recess push.

Sources at the meeting said they stressed repeatedly the need to ramp up the immigration push, with all Gang of Eight members except Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio on hand to demand that the groups develop a coordinated campaign, including personalizing lobbying to specific lawmakers, Politico reported.

“What we wanted to do was kick everybody in the butt and say, ‘Hey, there’s time to do it, but you’ve got to do it,’” said Gang of Eight member Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham estimates there are only 30 or 40 Republican representatives opposing the comprehensive Senate bill, but GOP House leaders say the number is more like 180.

South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, one of the lawmakers being targeted, said he is "more likely to be persuaded by one person with a compelling argument than I am a huge media buy or people from outside the district who come to a town hall.”

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