WASHINGTON — Sen. John McCain ripped into fellow Republican Deb Fischer on the Senate floor this week over her criticisms of the pending immigration legislation.
The junior senator from Nebraska had just wrapped up a floor statement on Tuesday in which she ran through a list of her problems with what she called a “fatally flawed” bill.
She said the proposed legislation would fail to secure the border before granting status to those in the country illegally, has major loopholes for those who overstay visas and would cost too much money without any accountability.
“The reporting requirements to Congress are toothless,” Fischer said. “I reject, and I suspect Nebraskans reject, the idea that massive amounts of spending alone are the solution to our border security problem.”
Before Fischer could leave the floor, McCain asked whether she had ever visited the U.S.-Mexico border in his home state of Arizona. Fischer responded that she had visited the border in Texas some years ago.
“I would just say to the senator from Nebraska, she is so ill-informed, the statement that I just saw, I don't know where to begin, except to say that if you don't think this legislation secures the border you haven't spent any time on the border, certainly not any meaningful time,” McCain said. “And I can't express my disappointment in the series of false statements that the senator just made.”
The sudden attack was all the more remarkable given that McCain flew into Omaha to stump for Fischer in the closing days of her Senate campaign last November.
At that time, Fischer introduced him as a “gentleman who is loved in this state because of who he is, what he stands for — a great American hero.”
And McCain, in turn, urged Nebraskans to elect her “to represent your values, to represent the things that we believe in and stand for.”
On the floor Tuesday, Fischer defended her comments.
“I believe that my statement is correct,” Fischer said. “It reflects the values of my state. It reflects the values of those Americans, and it truly reflects their concerns with this piece of legislation that is before us now.”
McCain picked up his microphone once again and said he would welcome Fischer to come and see all the new technology being used to secure the border.
“To somehow believe that our border cannot be secured by this legislation argues strenuously for a visit, and I invite the senator,” he said.
Fischer said on the floor that she looks forward to accepting his invitation.
In her weekly conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Fischer said she continues to have great respect for McCain and reiterated that he's a hero who has served the country well.
“This is a very emotional issue and debate gets hot sometimes on the floor,” Fischer said. “I think Sen. McCain is upset that I am not supporting the bill that he has been working on and you could tell from his comments he is very frustrated. I believe you can also tell from his comments that he didn't listen to the speech that I was making.”
The legislation the two were debating continued to move forward on Wednesday, easily clearing several additional procedural hurdles. The measure appeared poised to be approved in the Senate by a strong bipartisan majority either Thursday or Friday.
In the House on Wednesday, the Judiciary Committee was to vote on employment verification legislation. It's the third in a series of single-issue immigration bills the committee has voted on as it takes a piecemeal approach to overhauling the nation's immigration system, in contrast with the Senate's comprehensive bill.
None of the measures considered by the House panel includes a path to citizenship or even legalization for the millions here illegally, something opposed by many House conservatives. That leaves the final fate of the immigration overhaul effort unclear once the spotlight moves from the Senate to the House after this week's action.
In the Senate, Fischer and other opponents of the bill have complained about the process, saying they have not been able to get enough of their amendments considered.
For example, Fischer said one of her proposals would require those seeking registered provisional immigrant status to demonstrate an understanding of English, as well as the history and government of the United States.
“It promotes national unity,” Fischer said. “I believe it helps with assimilation. … We always talk about the United States being a melting pot.”
This report includes material from the Associated Press.