PHOENIX – Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake spoke to constituents Tuesday about one of their priorities: immigration reform.
At a media-sponsored town hall in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa, the two senators said they remained hopeful immigration reform can pass before the end of the year.
The comprehensive bill the two Arizona senators helped shepherd through the U.S. Senate this June was basically dead on arrival in the House of Representatives, where leaders have pledged to take a piecemeal approach to immigration reform.
But the Arizona senators said they are still optimistic the House will pass legislation, allowing the two chambers to conference on a final bill.
McCain says there's been significant progress since Congress last debated the issue in 2007.
"We have an unprecedented coalition behind us, whether it is business or labor, the unions the evangelicals, the Catholic church, the manufacturers the Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO," McCain said.
He added for comic relief: "Sen. Flake and I have become friends with Mr. Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO, which shows if you live long enough, anything can happen."
When asked what they plan to do if the effort ultimately fails, Flake quipped, "Hunger strike?"
Opponents of immigration reform rallied outside of the town hall, but over the course of the August recess nationwide, grassroots mobilizations in favor of immigration reform have been more visible.
Frank Sharry of the pro-reform group America's Voice claimed this month has been a victory for his side.
"Most pundits predicted that the anti-immigration reform forces would mobilize and would kill off reform in August," Sharry said. "And just the opposite has happened."
Opponents of reform counter that they haven't needed to come out in force because most House Republicans already share their views.
Sharry said some two dozen Republicans have come out publicly in favor of some form of a pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally. While those Republicans, along with House Democrats, could potentially represent enough votes to pass a bill, House leadership has said it will only vote on bills that are supported by a majority of Republicans.
Washington insiders don't expect the House to take up immigration reform until late October at the earliest.