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John McCain: 'some optimism' for a more bipartisan approach in the Senate (+video)

Sens. John McCain and Charles Schumer spoke Thursday at a Monitor breakfast about immigration reform proposals drafted by a bipartisan group of eight senators. The two are part of that group.

By David T. CookStaff writer / April 25, 2013

Sens. Charles Schumer and John McCain speak at a Monitor-hosted breakfast for reporters in Washington, D.C., Thursday.

Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor

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Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona says that for the first time in a while, he harbors “some optimism” about the chance for a bipartisan approach to some of America’s compelling problems.

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Senator McCain, his party’s standard-bearer in the 2008 election, said he senses “a slight change in the environment of the Senate.” McCain and Sen. Charles Schumer (D) of New York spoke Thursday at a Monitor-hosted breakfast for reporters about immigration reform proposals drafted by a bipartisan group of eight senators. Both McCain and Senator Schumer are part of that group.

In addition to the immigration reform efforts, McCain also cited the fact the Senate agreed to take up gun-control legislation, even though it ultimately did not pass, as well as what he called “every opportunity” for a grand bargain to deal with the budget deficit.

Schumer, vice chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus, said, “I agree with John there is a different mood in the Senate.” Schumer said he and McCain hope that their immigration bill “sort of sets the model for doing this, coming to bipartisan agreements on other major issues." He added, "There is a desire among the majority of people in both parties – not everybody, but the majority of people in both parties – to actually do that.”

If a more bipartisan approach were to break out, the result could be a session of Congress that “is going to be a lot more productive than the last few on a whole bunch of issues,” Schumer said.

McCain said the initial steps he has seen to a more bipartisan approach are driven, in part, by Congress’s low approval ratings. Its 13 percent approval rate in March is barely above the all-time low of 10 percent, recorded in 2012, according to Gallup.

If the low poll numbers persist, “we are going to see a third party in the United States,” McCain said. More and more new voters are registering as independents, he noted. “Those people are voting independent because they don’t find a home in either party. Sooner or later that dynamic is going to affect the political landscape,” the senator said. 

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