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Senators Say Deal On Immigration Close But Not Final

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With the labor-business deal reached, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Sunday that he hopes there will be a Senate vote on immigration as early as May.

"With the agreement between business and labor, every major policy issue has been resolved on the Gang of Eight," Schumer said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "So I am very, very optimistic that we will have an agreement among the eight of us next week. Senator Leahy has agreed to have extensive markup and debate on the bill in April. And then we go to the floor in-- God willing, in May."

Several Republicans appeared less ready to celebrate, cautioning that until the bill is drafted and considered by the full Senate, an agreement will not be complete.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) released a statement Sunday morning just before his colleagues hit the Sunday shows, calling reports that the Gang of Eight had reached a final deal "premature."

"We will need a healthy public debate that includes committee hearings and the opportunity for other senators to improve our legislation with their own amendments," Rubio said, stressing that the process is far from over.

Schumer's own comments reflect an expectation that the bill will be debated at the committee level. Rubio is "protecting some of the things that he thinks are very important in the bill," Schumer said. "But I don't think that'll stand in the way in any way of any final agreement."

Freshman Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), one of four Republicans along with Rubio on the Gang of Eight, said the agreement between labor and business interests brings them "closer" to a deal but with more work ahead. "That doesn't mean we've crossed every 'i' or dotted every 't' -- or vice versa," Flake said during an appearance on NBC"s "Meet the Press." "We've still got a ways to go in terms of looking at the language and making sure it's everything we thought it would be."

Without all the details in place, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said the Gang of Eight is in broad agreement on what will be in the bill. "It's gotta be written up, we haven't signed-off, there are a few details yet," Graham said on CNN's "State of the Union." "But conceptually, we have an agreement between business and labor, between ourselves."

Graham predicted that once drafted, the bill would pass both the House and the Senate.

The agreement reached Friday night between Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumpka on the details of a program to bring low-skilled workers into the country means one of the major sticking points holding up legislation has been resolved. The eight senators can now procede with drafting the comprehensive reform bill.

Schumer acknowledged that the language of the actual bill is the last hurdle to a final, bipartisan agreement among the eight senators.

"But as Senator Rubio correctly says, we have said we will not come to final agreement till we look at all of the legislative language. And he's correctly pointing out that that language hasn't been fully drafted," Schumer said.

"There'll be little kerfuffles," he added. "But I don't think any of us expect there to be problems."

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