The ‘Straight Talk Express’ is back: McCain on his fears about the future of the GOP

Jeff Zeleny and Jordyn Phelps
Power Players
The ‘Straight Talk Express’ is back: McCain on his fears about the future of the GOP

The Fine Print

Sen. John McCain has a strong warning for Republicans: Falter on immigration reform and the party will lose in 2016.

“If we fail on immigration reform, it won't matter who our nominee is because of the polarization of the Hispanic vote,” McCain, R-Ariz., tells “The Fine Print.” “Now that's not why I'm for immigration reform but it certainly is one of the consequences of a failure.”

McCain, who has simultaneously emerged as a friend to the White House and a critic of some of the new GOP firebrands on Capitol Hill, says he’s hopeful that the August congressional recess will bring lawmakers back to Washington “with at least a willingness to move forward” on a course to overhaul the nation's immigration system.

“Members are back interacting with their constituents,” McCain says of the upcoming recess. “And we see a coalition of Evangelicals, of the Catholic Church, of business, of labor, of small business, high tech, across the board, support the likes of which we, I've never seen for one specific part of legislation.”

As for Republican newcomers, such as Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., who have been bucking establishment Republican positions on immigration and other issues, McCain advises that they read up on their history.

“The people who are pushing this Obamacare vs. government shutdown, none of them that I know were here the last time we saw that movie,” he says.

While freshman senators do bring a positive “infusion” of new ideas, he says, it’s also important to maintain the Senate’s “corporate memory.”

Asked about their 2016 presidential aspirations, McCain isn't very charitable, calling them only "viable."

On the topic of his partnership with Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, a key Democratic leader, McCain laughed off the criticism voiced by some Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

“Sen. Schumer is a person who is as good as his word,” McCain says. “His word is good, and he reminds me, in a way, of the work that I used to do with Ted Kennedy.”

McCain says his bipartisan partnership with Schumer remains strong and has been solidified through months of negotiations on tough issues like immigration reform, potential filibusters and the fiscal cliff.

To hear more of the interview with McCain, including what he hopes to accomplish when he travels to Egypt next week at the request of the White House, check out this episode of “The Fine Print.”

ABC's Robin Gradison, Betsy Klein, Michael Conte, Brian Haefeli, and Vicki Vennell contributed to this episode.