Can Anyone Make Up Their Mind on Immigration Reform?

A number of GOP Senators want their own back scratched before they sign off on comprehensive immigration reform.

widemodern_mccainschumer_060413.jpg
By + More

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., says he has no idea how many people are going to vote for his immigration bill and he won't be pleading for his GOP colleagues to vote 'yes' to tip the scales in his favor.

"I have never counted votes in 20-something years. That is the whip's job," McCain says. "We discuss the provisions of the bill, but I don't go around and ask people to vote for it. They make their own judgments. I would run for whip if I had wanted to do that."

[READ: Why Marco Rubio Has to Have It Both Ways on Immigration Reform]

But McCain's immigration overhaul, which he drafted alongside three other Republicans and four Democrats is at a critical juncture. The bill's sponsors say they need at least 70 votes to send a strong message to the House that the bill is conservative enough. And while the bill passed out of the committee with bipartisan support, it now faces growing criticism from conservatives, including one of the bill's main authors, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., as it awaits its fate on the Senate floor.

Republicans on Capitol Hill are publicly airing their grievances with the legislation, saying that the bill's border security provisions are too weak and that the Senate's "gang of eight" gives the Department of Homeland Security too much discretion in how to secure the country's border.

Rubio reiterated Monday that the bill would need " major changes" if it were going to survive and pass with Republican votes. And it seems every GOP senator has their own special request they need met before they can sign onto the immigration bill.

For Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, it is the promise that immigrants pay all back taxes before they are put on a path to citizenship. The Senate bill currently gives immigrants the opportunity to give the IRS what they owe in taxes, but the provision depends heavily on immigrants coming forward on their own will.

[PHOTOS: Thousands Rally Across U.S. Over Immigration Reform]

Hatch, who is seen as a key vote on the bill, says he will introduce an amendment on the floor that would require immigrants to find their employment documents and prove they have been paying their fair share to the IRS.

"This bill isn't going to pass without those amendments and some additional ones," Hatch says to critics who argue that requiring immigrants to provide substantial documentation might prove too big of a hurdle to draw immigrants out of the shadows.

"I am going to get the bill so it will pass," Hatch says. "Right now, there have been some very effective changes that should make it a little more palatable, but it is not there yet. We all know it."

While some Democrats have said that the requirement is too rigid, Republicans like McCain are sympathetic to Hatch's concerns.

"I think it would be difficult, but I think it should be difficult to become a citizen of the United States," McCain says.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, says that he wants to make sure that E-Verify, an Internet-based system that checks immigrants' legal status, is up and running before people can be put on a path to citizenship.

"I am pro-reform, but I have concerns," Portman says. "I think the enforcement side can be strengthened both on border and interior, specifically on E-Verify."

[BROWSE: Political Cartoons on Immigration Reform]

Portman says that he has met with Rubio about possible amendments that would ensure that immigrants who come to the country have legal status before they can get a job.

Other moderate GOP lawmakers, like Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, are still looking over the bill and considering ways to strengthen it.

"I just met with my staff and asked them to do a complete analysis of the bill," Collins says. "It is premature for me to reach a conclusion on the bill. I do believe we need comprehensive immigration reform, but whether this bill is a bill I can support, I don't know yet. "

Even moderate Democrats are playing hard to get on immigration.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., says "the jury is still out" on whether he will get behind the bill. Tester says, like some of his GOP colleagues, he still has concerns about border security and visa oversight. Tester says that he still is unsure if he will support a path to citizenship.