McCain had some harsh words for his GOP presidential rivals Monday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Facing increasing unrest from many conservatives over his immigration stance, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, made his case Monday for the Senate immigration bill he had a hand in drafting and directly criticized his GOP presidential opponents for offering no solutions of their own.
"The choice is between doing something, imperfect but effective and achievable, and doing nothing," McCain said in a speech in Florida. "I would hope that any candidate for president would not suggest doing nothing. And I would hope they wouldn't play politics for their own interests if the cost of their ambition was to make this problem even harder to solve."
Though not mentioning any of his rivals by name, McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, in particular, have engaged in a war of words over the Senate immigration proposal. Romney has called the bill an amnesty plan, while McCain has suggested that Romney has shifted his position on immigration for political gain.
"To want the office so badly that you would intentionally make our country's problems worse might prove you can read a poll or take a cheap shot, but it hardly demonstrates presidential leadership," McCain said in his speech Monday.
"Pandering for votes on this issue, while offering no solution to the problem, amounts to doing nothing," he added. "And doing nothing is silent amnesty."
McCain's speech comes one day before 10 GOP presidential candidates square-off in New Hampshire at a debate sponsored by CNN, WMUR-TV, and the New Hampshire Union Leader. The debate will air on CNN at 7 p.m. ET. CNN Pipeline will also stream video of the debate free of charge that evening.
Responding to McCain's speech, Romney said in a statement, "the immigration approach proposed by Senators McCain and Kennedy falls short of a workable solution to an important problem."
"In reforming our immigration system, we must meet three priorities." he added. "First, we can and must secure our borders. Second, our country must have an enforceable employment verification system. Third, in reforming our immigration system, we must do so in a way that rewards immigrants who obey the laws and guards against providing special incentives for those who show no regard for them."
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney