All-Star Panel: Will 'Gang of 8' immigration bill succeed?

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 2, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I am optimistic about us getting this done because it is the right thing to do. We've seen leaders from both parties indicate that now is the time to get comprehensive immigration reform done. The bill that Senator Rubio and others put forward, I think it is a great place to start. It doesn't contain everything I want. What I am not going to do is go along with something where we are looking for an excuse not to do it as opposed to a way to do it.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: President Obama in Mexico City tonight talking about immigration reform. And that will be front and center next week. We're back with the panel. Mara, where do you think we stand and where that bill -- the "Gang of 8" stands currently?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think the bill has proved remarkably resilient. There certainly are head winds and big pockets of Republican resistance – conservative resistance to the path to citizenship. But I have been impressed by the breadth and the depth of the coalition behind this, the business community, you've got all sorts of conservative activists, you've got the entire leadership of the Republican establishment plus Marco Rubio. And I think it is chugging along. I think it will pass the Senate. Then there will be pressure on the House to pass something. The question is, does that something have a path to citizenship or not? Then it has to go to committee and the president was pretty clear in his press conference the other day that he's not going to sign something without a path to citizenship and I doubt that Democrats are going to vote for something without it.

So I think we are going to end up with something. This is one of those rare things that are in both party's political interests to do and that's why I think it's going to get done.

BAIER: Senator Reid saying just last night that he's going to do everything , David, to get it across the finish line. You will have some stiff opposition, obviously, in the House and a number of people in the Senate, including Senator Sessions. Where do you think it stands?

DAVID DRUCKER, ROLL CALL: I think it is it in pretty good shape so far. I think that it's going to be very interesting to watch what happens in the House. But like the Senate, you have a number of Republicans that are very important to conservatives that right now are on board with the concept and a concept that includes a path to citizenship. I watched Rep. Raul Labrador, a very conservative Tea Party Republican from Idaho who is a part of the House "Gang of 8." I look at Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte who is no squish.

And what the House is doing that I think is important that a lot of people miss, is that they are trying to involve as many members as you can and not just ceding the terms of the debate to whatever the House "Gang of 8" comes up with. Next week, there'll be hearings on a couple of bills not from the "Gang of 8" that have to do with guest worker program and strengthening the e- verify program. And the point of that is to give a lot of members a shot at this so that everyone feels involved. One of the worst things you can do to lose in the House these days is make members feel like this is a message -- an order from on high. Here is the bill. Eat it and like it. Give them a chance, don't make them feel like it is rushed and you can then thread this needle.

BAIER: How much – and we've talked about the specifics, and the concerns about the trigger and the border security, how much of the politics of Republican politics and looking at the map, plays into some of this, Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, I think it is the reason for the impetus. It was obvious in the results of last election were read by Republicans as unless you need to do something and stop alienating American Hispanics or you're never going to win the White House again. So there has been a lot of return to what I would call the Bush position of the middle part of the last decade which at the time was not widespread accepted among Republicans. So they are open to it.

And I do not think that the main issue, that the resistance among Republicans and conservatives who are resisting this is about citizenship. It is about enforcement. There is a sense. I think they understand there is going to have to be a path that's going to have to be accepted. There is also a sense that if you really do have control of the border it will be OK because it will be the last time. It's not going to be like the swindle in 1986 in which enforcement was promised and never happened.

That's why I think the bill is not yet secure. It will depend again, not on citizenship, it will depend on whether the Democrats show seriousness about enforcement. I'll give you one example. Rubio today, spoke about members who might want to have a double fence. In fact, the one outside San Diego has a triple fence and it reduced illegal immigration by over 90 percent. Now, if Democrats object you have to ask them why, what possible objection could you have? It might be a waste of money, but it's likely to work. It worked in Israel, it works in a lot of places. So I think the Republicans are going to look for indications of seriousness about enforcement. If they get it, they will support it.

BAIER: Mara, where is the biggest opposition coming from? We've seen Representative Steve King from Iowa. He said "amnesty," using that word.  You have seen cost concerns.

LIASSON: Cost, and certainly the Heritage Foundation is focused on that, the specter of illegal immigrants taking public services, welfare, taxpayer funded services. You have certainly Jeff Sessions in the Senate. But I think that the opposition is surmountable. You do have the interesting specter of the president telling the left don't push for too much guys. If you pull this too far to the left you're going to queer the deal.

BAIER: We'll see much more of that this weekend, "Fox News Sunday" as well. That's it for the panel, but stay tuned as we reveal some of the most recent impacts of sequestration. 

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