Lindsey Graham on immigration in Senate: "The bill will pass." - - Columbia, South Carolina

Lindsey Graham on immigration in Senate: "The bill will pass."


Senate leaders are expected to wrap up debate and possibly vote on the comprehensive immigration reform bill this week.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, emboldened by the potential addition of tougher border security measures and the Congressional Budget Office's report that the bill would lower the deficit by nearly $900 billion over the next 20 years, appeared on Fox News Sunday to talk up the bill's chances in the Senate.

"The bill will pass. I think we're on the verge of getting 70 votes. That is my goal, that has always been my goal. We're very, very close to 70 votes. The Hoeven-Corker amendment I think gets us over the top," Graham told host Chris Wallace.

The Hoeven-Corker amendment would spend more than $20 billion for more border patrol agents and provide money to complete a 700-mile long fence near the US-Mexico border.

Graham took to the Senate floor last week to throw his support behind the amendment, saying it "practically militarizes the border."

"We've secured our border in a way that I could not have imagined four or five years ago. This whole border security amendment I think is the most aggressive attempt to control the southern border and regain our sovereignty," said Graham.

While the bill faces greater odds of passage in the Senate, it faces an uncertain peril in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives where many conservatives may not support the bill even with greater border security measures.

The main sticking point for many House Republicans is the "pathway to citizenship," a portion of the bill that would grant many of the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants the ability to become full citizens over the course of 13 years.

House Republicans have tried to put together several piecemeal immigration bills while the Senate worked to craft its legislation.

One bill, written by South Carolina Fourth District Congressman Trey Gowdy would grant state officials greater ability to enforce existing immigration laws.

However, according to Graham, the best chance of fixing the country's immigration issues is through the Senate's wholesale legislation.

"We've tied the two together, that's the only way to do this. I've been dealing with it since 2005 and 2006, and this is a great solution for our economy and our national security and I'm very proud of this bill," said Graham.

The Palmetto State's senior senator also had tough talk for his fellow Republicans if the bill fails in the House, saying in certain terms that the bill's passage is up to them.

"And if it fails and we are blamed for its failure, our party is in trouble with Hispanics -- not because we are conservative, but because of the rhetoric and the way we've handled this issue. I want to get reattached to the Hispanic community, sell conservatism, pass comprehensive immigration reform, and grow this party. The party has to be bigger than Utah and South Carolina. The Hispanic community is very close to our values, but we have driven them away over this issue. Let's fix the problem for the good of the country and the good of the party."

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