WASHINGTON -- Faced with concern from his fellow Republicans that they could be steamrolled in the immigration bill process, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday that he wants to give everyone a chance to offer their opinion -- so long as they're not simply trying to derail the bill.
"We held one hearing in 2006, makes sense to me we hold at least one hearing," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters before a lunch meeting with Republican senators. "It's going to go through the committee process. If you want to make it better, you'll have a chance, if you want to kill it, you'll have a chance."
Senate Republicans have criticized the closed-door talks of the so-called gang of eight working on an immigration reform bill, and have already accused Democrats of trying to ram through a bill. Those involved in drafting the legislation, along with Democratic leadership, have said they will run the bill through regular order: going first to the Judiciary Committee, then on to the Senate floor.
Graham said he's happy to hear out opponents of the bill, if they have constructive criticism.
"I'm going to fight for this bill," he said. "I'm going to listen to what other people have to say to make it better, but if your goal is to kill it by process, I'm not going to agree to that. If your goal is to have a process that allows people to read it, understand it, debate it, amend it and vote on it, count me in."
Members of the gang of eight have given mixed messages on the timing of their bill, which was expected this week. Graham said it would be "sooner rather than later," but wouldn't say if "soon" meant this week or simply this month.
Senators said the issue of immigration didn't come up much during the lunch, despite reports that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) -- who was not able to attend -- would brief the group on Tuesday. They will likely discuss immigration on Wednesday instead, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a press conference that he's hopeful about the gang of eight discussions, but is waiting to see the outcome.
"This is something that I think majorities of both sides in the Senate want to see go forward, and we'll have to see what the final content of that is," he said. "It also, according to the majority leader, will then go to the Judiciary Committee through regular order. I think that all I can say about immigration at this point is that I think there is a bipartisan interest in moving the issue forward. We'll have to see what it looks like when we get it."