Sticking points remain. There's still disagreement over plans for a new program to bring in agriculture workers, who weren't included in the deal struck between the chamber and AFL-CIO. The agriculture industry is at odds with United Farm Workers over wages.
But overall, all involved are optimistic that the time is ripe to make the biggest changes to the nation's immigration laws in more than a quarter-century. For many Republicans, their loss in the November presidential election, when Latino and Asians voters backed Obama in big numbers, resonates as evidence that they must confront the immigration issue.
"The politics of self-deportation are behind us," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., referring to GOP candidate Mitt Romney's suggestion in the presidential campaign. "It was an impractical solution. Quite frankly it's offensive. Every corner of the Republican Party, from libertarians to the (Republican National Committee), House Republicans and the rank-and-file Republican Party member, is now understanding there has to be an earned pathway to citizenship."
Graham and McCain also had praise for Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the negotiating team who's acted as a bridge to conservatives but also has kept advocates and other lawmakers guessing about whether he'll ultimately support the bill.
"Marco Rubio has been a game changer in my party. He will be there only if the Democrats will embrace a guest worker program and a merit-based immigration system to replace the broken one," Graham said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
After consideration by the Judiciary Committee, floor action could start in the Senate in May, Schumer said.
Meanwhile two lawmakers involved in writing a bipartisan immigration bill in the House, Reps. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., sounded optimistic that they, too, would have a deal soon that could be reconciled with the Senate agreement.
"I am very, very optimistic that the House of Representatives is going to have a plan that is going to be able to go to a conference with the Senate in which we're going to be able to resolve this," Gutierrez said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union".
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