McCaul: Senate bill 'candy thrown down there' for votes
(CNN) — As Congress prepared to return to immigration reform next week, the debate over the issue continued Sunday, with the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee saying the Senate bill just throws "a bunch of candy" at the border "to gain votes."
"What the Senate just passed was, again, a bunch of candy thrown down there -- a bunch of assets thrown down there to gain votes, but without a methodical, smart border approach. We want a smart border; we also want a smart immigration plan -- something that makes sense," Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, said on CBS's "Face the Nation."
The Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill last month, 68-32. House Republicans will meet behind closed doors on Wednesday to discuss their next steps on the issue, but Republican leaders in the House say the bill is a nonstarter in their chamber, considering it includes a pathway to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants.
Meanwhile, a bipartisan group in the House is working on a separate immigration proposal, requiring border security be improved before citizenship provisions kick in. House Speaker John Boehner has said that lawmakers will craft their own bill or series of bills, separate from the Senate legislation.
The Senate bill included a last-minute, bipartisan amendment calling for tighter border security, to make the overall legislation more acceptable to Republicans.
McCaul called the amendment "not a responsible plan."
"I believe it was hatched at the last minute to get votes to pass in the Senate," he said.
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, also took issue with the amendment allowing the administration to "determine when the border is secure." Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has already said the border is secure, he pointed out.
"I think immigration reform is necessary," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "My concern with the Senate bill is that they put the legalization of 11 million people ahead of security. The legalization happens first, and then the security happens second. And I think the American people are not going to stand for that."
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said he hopes Republicans take up the Senate bill and insisted that Senate Republicans are not trying to "dictate" how House Republicans act on the legislation.
"We hope and pray that our Republican colleagues will take up the issue, and we can join together, Republicans and Democrats," he said, also appearing on "Face the Nation." "I believe that if they can come up with a bill we would be more than eager to negotiate with them. A failure to act is de facto amnesty for 11 million people living in the shadows."
But if Republicans fail to pass the Senate bill, will it hurt the party on the national front?
Asked if Senate Democrats are setting House Republicans up to fail, McCaul said, "My concern is that the political backdrop could be to see this fail in the House, so that they can blame the House of Representatives for that and then try to take back the House of Representatives."