Eight senators are attending private meetings each week, alternating between the offices of Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, sipping water or soft drinks as they sit in a circle and debate issues such as border security and temporary workers. The ‘Gang of Eight’ is determined to prove to be the exception in a capital that seems to be ruled by gridlock and partisanship.
They are also the best hope that the United States has seen for many years for delivering an overhaul of the country’s increasingly broken immigration system. They are well aware of this fact, which may explain why they are apparently working surprisingly well together as they approach a self-imposed deadline, despite the group comprising some of the most outsized personalities in the Senate. The group includes a lawmaker whose career has been dogged by scandal, failed and prospective Presidential candidates, and one in the midst of a re-election challenge himself.
“I tell you what, this is one of the best experiences I’ve had,” says Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina. “Everybody’s serious, everybody’s knowledgeable, they’ve been around the issue.” Graham notes that what the group is trying to do is “sort of what I came up here to do… sit down with serious people to solve serious and hard problems.”
The group began to come together in the weekend after the re-election of President Barack Obama, when Graham phoned Schumer and the Republican Party in general began to realize that making progress on US immigration reform might just be in their best interests.