Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions slammed a vague bargain on immigration announced on Thursday by the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, even as the Republican House majority leader, Rep. Eric Cantor, applauded it.
“The Chamber’s primary goal has never been to establish a lawful immigration system and secure our borders, but to get as much cheap labor as possible — regardless of how it impacts American workers, legal immigrants, and taxpayers in general,” said Sessions, who is the senior Republican on the Senate budget committee.
Sessions didn’t directly criticize Cantor, who announced his support for the AFL-CIO and the Chamber.
“I applaud the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO for coming together to find common ground in an effort to reform our broken immigration system,” Cantor said in a statement.
“Their goal of protecting American workers and ensuring we have the workforce we need to grow the economy and remain globally competitive is one I share. While we may not agree on every aspect, it is encouraging that two groups often on opposite sides of the aisle are serious about putting politics aside and finding solutions,” he added.
The White House also backed the vaguely worded bargain.
“This is yet another sign of progress, of bipartisanship, and we are encouraged by it,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday. “At the same time, the agreement you refer to is an agreement on principles, and we remain focused on encouraging the Senate to develop a comprehensive bill.”
The open breach between a top GOP senator, the GOP’s House majority leader and the Chamber of Commerce highlights the populist politics of the immigration dispute.
The most prominent immigration bill is being drafted by eight senators.It is being pushed by a broad alliance of business-backed Republicans, ethnic lobbies, progressives activists and newer, Democratic-aligned technology and consulting companies in Silicon Valley and New York.
For example, Cantors’s endorsement of the bargain was applauded by an immigration advocate at the Center for American Progress, a lobby group that works on behalf of postgraduate professionals.
But the bill is being carefully opposed by many Republicans and some Democrats, who say they represent Americans who don’t trust Washington to act in the public’s best interest.
Sessions, for example, slammed the deal as bad for Americans.
A program that invites guest-workers to compete for jobs in the United States “is certain to take jobs from American workers and depress wages,” said Sessions, who is widely regarded by progressives as a “right-winger.”