Eds: Restores dropped word 'of' in 6th paragraph. Interactive: http://hosted.ap.org/interactives/2013/immigration/. With AP Photos.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans' hopes to reclaim the White House in the 2016 elections hinge on whether they support — or sabotage — the immigration overhaul being debated in the Senate, two lawmakers who helped write the proposal warn.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Sunday told conservatives who are trying to block the measure that they will doom the party and all but guarantee a Democrat will remain in the White House after 2016's election. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., went a step further and predicted "there'll never be a road to the White House for the Republican Party" if immigration overhaul fails to pass.
The Senate is moving forward with an overhaul and appears to be on track to have a vote from the full Senate by July 4. A timeline for a House proposal is less certain, although leaders say they are working on plans that more closely follow conservatives' wish list.
The Senate last week overcame a procedural hurdle in moving forward on the first immigration overhaul in a generation. Lawmakers from both parties voted to begin formal debate on a proposal that would give an estimated 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally a long and difficult path to citizenship.
The Senate legislation also creates a low-skilled guest-worker program, expands the number of visas available for high-tech workers and de-emphasizes family ties in the system for legal immigration that has been in place for decades. It also sets border security goals that the government must meet before immigrants living in the U.S. illegally are granted any change in status.
Meanwhile, one of the proposal's authors, who is considering a White House campaign, refused again to pledge support for the measure without changes conservatives have demanded.