Future of 'Gang of 8' bill on immigration reform

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," June 11, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I know there is a lot of talk right now about border security. So let me repeat. Today illegal crossings are near their lowest level in decades. And, if passed, the Senate bill as currently written, and as hid in the floor, would put in place the toughest border enforcement plan that America has ever seen.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R - FL: I refuse to accept the idea that the most powerful country on Earth, the nation that put a man on the moon is incapable of securing its own border. Our sovereignty is at stake in terms of border security.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS, R - AL: When I was in the "Gang of 8," I know they want to do the right thing and they worked hard. But they got off on the wrong track. 


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, the first procedural hurdle for immigration reform. The bill by the "Gang of 8" in the Senate passed today. The "Gang of 8" bill cleared that hurdle by a wide margin, 82 to 15. We're back with the panel.  There you see the "Gang of 8", Republicans and Democrats. A.B., where is this headed?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, by my math, they don't have the votes. It was -- we're going to begin the amendment process. There is going to be four areas where opponents are going to either try to kill the bill or better the bill. And that's not only on border security but it's on the process for applying for status, on payment of back taxes, what kind of benefits you might get, as well as refugee status and asylum, and I hope I don't leave anything out here.

BAIER: Equity at to same-sex couples was just filed by Leahy.  He took it off in the committee because he was worried that it was going to blow up the deal. He has just filed that.

STODDARD: Right. But the consensus is that they have to deal with those four issues I mentioned. They don't want to deal with that because they think it blows up the bill.

But they have a possible four Democrats they would lose. That brings to you 51 Democrats. And then under my conservative scenario, if you get Senators Flake, Rubio, Graham, McCain, who are the "Gang of 8," Ayotte, plus maybe a Collins, or Heller, or Portman who are blue state Republicans, you are still scratching. They might not get all of them. So, the word is they don't have the 60. A lot has to change, but there is time for that to change.

BAIER: Senator Ted Cruz took to the Senate floor, Steve, and here is what he said about the bill.


SEN. TED CRUZ, R - TX: I believe the votes are already precooked that this bill is going to pass the U.S. Senate. But absent major revisions, absent the revisions along the lines of the amendments that I introduced in committee and intend to introduce on the floor again, this bill will crash and burn in the House. And it is designed to do so. So how do we save it?


BAIER: "Designed to do so" he says Steve.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yeah, it was interesting. He had a very different view than the one that we just heard from A.B. And I was interested in the discussions today on the floor. There is almost seemed to be an assumption that this would pass. Now, maybe this is proponents being optimistic and opponents being pessimistic, but they seemed to be coming from the same place.

I thought what Senator Cruz did was interesting today. He made two arguments, one on substance and principle, the other on politics. And he basically said for all of these reasons substantively this current bill stinks and we can't pass it, and here are the amendments that I have offered. But I thought he was arguably more effective in making sort of a crass political argument saying look you guys can do whatever you want. This can pass a good number of votes here in the Senate, but it is not going to pass -- nothing like this is going to pass in the House of Representatives, which is, of course, something that we have already heard from leadership in the House.

BAIER: One of the amendments, by the way, removes the path to citizenship and essentially makes it a legal limbo for illegal immigrants here, it doesn't give them citizenship at the end. So that loses Democrats.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Right. I actually would agree with that. I think that the current generation will get legalization. They will get residence, they'll be able to work. They get a green card. But I would deny them citizenship on the grounds that if you jump the line and you get in illegally you shouldn't really have been here in the first place, you shouldn't have a say in the political destiny of the country. Your children will, and I think that will be a fair resolution.

But that won't pass. And I wouldn't let the bill die on that. I would say, OK, citizenship yes, the key issue here is the enforcement of the border. If you don't have real output measures and not just inputs, the amount of money you spend but output a 90 percent decline of illegal immigration it ought to be defeated. I think Rubio might actually insist on that. That would be a deal breaker.

BAIER: That's it for the panel. But stay tuned for a light moment about a heavy topic for one of our own. 

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