Gang of 8 Starts Sales Pitch on Immigration Reform

Rubio reaches out to GOP senators to build momentum for immigration.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio talks about immigration reform.

Sens. Marco Rubio, John McCain and Chuck Schumer have different ideas on whether the Senate should tackle immigration reform with one large bill or multiple small ones.

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After the gang of eight signed off on its comprehensive immigration bill this week, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., didn't pop the champagne or offer a toast to bipartisanship. He looked at his colleagues and simply said "Is that it?"

It's not that finishing the bill isn't momentous, it's the reality that filing legislation is just the beginning.

[READ: Marco Rubio Offers Defense of New Immigration Deal.]

The bipartisan group of senators knows that no matter how many hours of blood, sweat and tears were put into the first draft, now is when the hard job begins­-- the sales pitch.

"It is so compelling for the country to fix this problem that we will stick together," Graham says. "We have put a lot of sweat equity into this bill. But it is not just about the eight of us. If we can't sell it to the rest of our conferences than maybe it is not a product worthy having to have passed."

And while Democrats will have to sell the bill to some reticent colleagues, Republicans may have further to go.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., made his rounds on seven Sunday talk shows ginning up public support, but Monday he began that critical in-house appeal to his GOP colleagues.

Rubio says the meeting was productive, adding that the initial responses to the legislation indicated just how far the party had come since a presidential election defeat in November.

"Quite frankly I wouldn't say that I heard big concerns from my colleagues last night," Rubio says. "This is the first time some of them are listening to this in depth and this is a process that is going to be ongoing. What I was very pleased with was by and large [they were] very receptive in terms of wanting to learn more."

[READ: Rubio Says Immigration Deal Needs Tough Terms.]

The latest immigration bill would beef up border security, create a path to citizenship for the country's 11 million immigrants who entered the country illegally, establish a stronger electronic verification system, set a formula to determine future flows of imigrants and create low skill and agricultural worker programs. The bill would also increase the availability of high-skilled worker visas.

The legislation's official rollout was postponed because of the Boston Marathon bombing, but senators say the bill if finished.

Each provision was carefully crafted over the last several months with exhaustive weekly and more recently, daily, meetings. And negotiations were deliberately hammered out with key interest groups like the AFL-CIO, the Farm Workers Union and the Chamber of Commerce to ensure that everyone had a seat at the table.

But initial reactions of the legislation were mixed. While many came in with an open mind, some, like Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.., warned his first impression of the bill was that it was a job killer.

"A number of important things have not been discussed," Sessions says. "There is no dispute, in my opinion, the bill that is proposed will pull down the wages of lower-wage workers in America. It will increase the likelihood of their unemployment. It will mean that more people in the United States today....will be eligible for welfare."

Sessions also strongly criticized the gang of eight's path to citizenship, which would require immigrants to pay back taxes and be put on a 13-year path. It is a provision many Republicans have come to accept as a necessary component to comprehensive reform.

Others, like Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, even embraced a more liberal piece of the comprehensive bill that would allow some immigrants, who were deported and do not have a criminal record, back into the country.

"I have seen some pretty sorry situations where people who are basically honest, have made mistakes then get hammered for it," Hatch says. " I think we ought to be open to an equitable and honest process and if I have anything do with it that is what will happen. "

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and a few other Republicans said they needed to take a closer look at the bill, but agreed that any legislation would probably need to be revenue neutral to get their vote.