McCain defends Kyl in immigration clash with Obama

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Senator John McCain, Arizona Republican, is weighing in on his colleague’s accusation that President Obama is holding border security “hostage.” On the floor of the Senate today, McCain defended his fellow Arizonian, Sen. Jon Kyl, saying he, too, heard the president express similar sentiments on securing the border.

“There’s been a lot of publicity in the last 24 hours about a conversation that Senator Kyl had with the president of the United States,” said McCain. “I was not there. But I was there a few weeks ago when the president of the United States came and had lunch with the Republican senators, gave a list of the issues he was concerned about … It was made very clear to me in the conversation we had … that the president basically conditioned his support for border security to overall comprehensive immigration reform.”

The lunch in question occurred on May 25, when the president joined 40 Republican senators to discuss bipartisan solutions to issues ranging from the oil spill, to financial regulation, to immigration. According to the Associated Press, “legislative logjams” remained intact after the meeting.

McCain also took issue with a recent statement from secretary of Homeland Security claiming the border is as “secure now as it has ever been,” when there are signs in Arizona 50 miles from the border that read “Warning: travel not recommended” south of Interstate 8.

“If we’ve made such great progress that the secretary of Homeland Security is trumpeting, why in the world would we have to put up signs like that?” said McCain. “The citizens residing in the southern part of our state do not feel secure.”

Last Friday, Sen. Kyl accused Obama of saying in a private meeting “The problem is … if we secure the border then you all won’t have any reason to support comprehensive immigration reform.”

“They [Democrats] want to get something in return for doing their duty,” said Kyl in a town hall meeting with supporters.

The White House responded to Kyl’s allegation by saying not only was the threat by Obama never made, but “there are more resources dedicated toward border security today than ever before.”