(CNN) — Sen. John McCain opened his town hall meeting in Sun Lakes, Arizona, on Tuesday with an invitation to answer “any comments, questions, or insults that you may have.”
He may have gotten what he wished for.
The Arizona Republican fielded spirited questioning from some people in the border state apparently frustrated with slow progress on the illegal immigration issue. Several rose at his forum in support of stringent deportation programs, which McCain does not favor.
“This is an Orwellian experience,” he said to one agitated questioner, telling him to sit down. “You’ve had enough time, sir. You’ve had enough time.”
The senator also spoke on the progress of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” in the Senate, of which he is a member. They have been working to craft an immigration bill suitable to members of both parties.
Initially, McCain said, “I cannot tell you that I’m sure that we will reach a conclusion,” but later added, “We believe that there is a good, strong possibility that we come up with a plan and a proposal that most Americans would support.”
“All I can say is that I’m guardedly optimistic,” he said. “I can say that we have not received anything but pledges of cooperation so far from the White House.”
President Barack Obama called him and two other Republicans involved in the immigration negotiations.
McCain said the Obama administration’s draft proposal on immigration – which emerged over the weekend and frustrated some Republicans — was not an issue in their conversation.
The administration has since said the plan was not an intended leak and underscored the president’s support for the bipartisan effort on Capitol Hill. But Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Obama’s proposal would be “dead on arrival in Congress” if the administration advanced it.
McCain also reiterated his plans to vote against the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel, which his party held up in the Senate last week. The vote is expected to go forward after senators return from their current recess.
By Gregory Wallace
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