As an aide to McCain, I was in the room for every one of those meetings. It was my first opportunity to observe Obama closely. During those meetings, I never saw him engage in any discussion concerned with building a majority vote in favor of the legislation. In the meetings he attended, he would draw from his shirt pocket a 3×5 index card, on which he had written changes he insisted be made to the bill before he would support it. They were invariably the same demands made by the AFL-CIO, which was intent on watering down or killing the guest-worker provisions. Republicans and Democrats alike were irritated by his transparently self-interested behavior, but tried to negotiate with him. He remained adamant in his positions and unwilling to compromise.
The bill passed the Senate anyway, but was rejected by the House of Representatives. Two years later, Senate supporters tried again with a bill that was mostly authored by Kennedy and Jon Kyl, who had opposed the previous bill. McCain and Obama were then formally running for president, but they still managed to participate in the debate. McCain was an original sponsor, and his staff had helped to negotiate and write many of the compromises it contained. His position did not have much support among Republican primary voters, and his rivals for the Republican nomination attacked him constantly for it.
The bill’s supporters reconvened their bipartisan caucus and daily meetings. They agreed that should any proposed amendments be unacceptable to either party’s members in the group, they would all oppose them. The only dissenter from this agreement was Barack Obama, who not only refused to oppose the amendments that would hurt the bill’s chances of passage, but actually sponsored some of them. His actions were not the only cause of the immigration reform’s failure to pass the Senate that year, but they certainly contributed to it.