WASHINGTON — Senator Michael Bennet’s role in a bipartisan group seeking to overhaul the nation’s illegal immigration laws was questioned after a key senator said he was “not part of the core negotiations.”
The Colorado Democrat, the new chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, did not attend a press conference at the Capitol Monday to announce the tenets of a comprehensive illegal immigration reform bill.
Sen. John McCain (R-Az.), one of five senators who attended the event, spoke about Bennet’s role as well as that of Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Az.) to this reporter afterwards.
“Neither [Bennet] nor Senator Flake were part of the core negotiations,” McCain said without elaborating.
McCain’s remark appeared to undercut statements that both Bennet and Flake’s offices released Monday.
Bennet’s statement implied he attended the press conference with the other members of the group.
“Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and a bipartisan group of senators today unveiled a framework for comprehensive immigration reform that will serve as the foundation for a bill the group plans to introduce and hopes to see passed this year,” the statement said. The release also quoted Bennet saying, “Today marks a resounding step forward in the long-time effort to fix our broken immigration system.”
Similarly, Flake’s statement implied he attended the press event at the Senate Radio and TV Gallery.
“U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-Az.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today offered as part of a bipartisan group of senators a framework for immigration reform legislation,” the statement said.
Spokespeople for both Bennet and Flake did not respond to an e-mail inquiry about the apparent discrepancy.
Bennet, a former head of the Denver public schools, parlayed support from Hispanic and socially liberal white voters to eke out a victory over a Republican challenger in 2010.
Bennet has publicly called for an overhaul of federal illegal immigration laws, most recently pairing with state political, business, civic, and religious leaders on a statement of principles. That statement, called “The Colorado Compact,” called for improved enforcement and the legalization of most illegal immigrants.