WASHINGTON -- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) hailed the late Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy on Monday as a bipartisan group of senators laid out new principles for comprehensive immigration reform -- perhaps handing opponents a weapon.
Kennedy and McCain led the effort for broad-based immigration reform that failed nearly six years ago, and McCain said this new push was nearly the same.
"If we do succeed, and I think we will, it will be a testimonial to Ted Kennedy's effort years ago that laid the groundwork for this agreement," McCain said. "You will find that this agreement has very little difference from that of the legislation that was led by Sen. Kennedy some years go."
In 2006, the two veteran lawmakers managed to shepherd their measure through the Senate only to see it disintegrate in the House, where GOP leaders recast the bill's name from "McCain-Kennedy" to "Reid-Kennedy," pairing the liberal lion with the Democratic leader, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), instead of the well-liked Republican.
Casting the measure as a purely Democratic effort led by Kennedy helped House Republicans undermine support for immigration reform on the right.
But McCain made sure to honor his old ally Monday, in spite of lingering antipathy in his party for the Kennedy name. The degree to which the Arizona senator's gesture gets replayed on conservative media will likely signal how the right will respond to the fresh effort for immigration reform.