(CNN)–Two leading voices on immigration reform legislation before the Senate held firm in their beliefs on Sunday.
Senator Edward Kennedy, a key supporter of the bill, said it was the best way to address the issue. "This bill is the only bill that is out there, and if we fail to pass this legislation, which is tough, practical and fair, we are going to have silent amnesty in this country." The Democrat from Massachusetts made comments to reporters following an appearance on ABC's "This Week." "We're not going to deport the twelve and a half million undocumented here, that would cost two hundred fifty billion dollars and buses from Los Angeles to New York and back. That's not going to happen. We ought to pass this bill. We know what the opponents of this bill are against. What we don't know is what they're for."
Senator Jeff Sessions, a leading critic of the compromise legislation, said starting over was the best course of action. "This is totally unacceptable. A comprehensive immigration reform should reduce illegality eighty and ninety percent at least in my view." The Alabama Republican also spoke to reporters after appearing on the same program. "So I think that it makes it an unacceptable piece of legislation. We just got to go back to the drawing board and work out something that will be effective and validate the promises being made to the people."
The measure would create a guest-worker program to let migrant workers from other countries work temporarily in the United States, a plan that critics have said would create a permanent underclass of poor, low-skill workers.
But the bill's most controversial aspect is the creation of a pathway to legal status and eventual citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country - a plan critics denounce as "amnesty."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, yanked the bill off the floor June 7 after supporters failed to muster the votes necessary to cut off debate on a series of amendments that were nibbling away at political balance the bill's authors had managed. Senate leaders agreed to bring it back after reaching a deal to consider about twenty amendmendments, split evenly between Democratic and Republican proposals.
The bill faces a test vote in the Senate this week.
–CNN Political Desk Editor Jamie Crawford