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Immigration backers pushed Christie to lobby new NJ sen

Gov. Chris Christie won’t have to vote on the immigration reform bill that passed the Senate Thursday, but supporters of the legislation lobbied the New Jersey governor to lend a hand for its passage this week.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, a leading Democrat on the Gang of Eight, spent a half hour on the phone with Christie Wednesday night in the effort to convince him to lobby his recent Senate appointee – Republican Sen. Jeff Chiesa – to vote for the bill, an aide told NBC News.

Numerous senators who backed the Gang of Eight bill followed Schumer’s lead, another GOP source said, urging the possible 2016 contender to use his influence with the newly-minted (and temporary) senator.

It’s not clear that Christie followed through on the requests, however, and an aide to Chiesa said his office was not aware of any communication between the two about the immigration bill.

But Chiesa did appear to warm to the legislation. He voted against a Wednesday procedural motion to advance the bill, but he did support the final legislation when it passed by a 68-32 vote Thursday evening.

Several of Christie’s potential rivals for the GOP nomination in 2016 have staked out distinct ground in the fight over comprehensive reform, a persistent fault line in the Republican Party. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida was instrumental in the drafting and passage of the Gang of Eight bill; Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky originally signaled that he might vote for the bill but withdrew support after his proposed amendments were pushed aside; and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was a vocal leader of the opposition who made frequent and often fiery condemnations of the bill on conservative radio and TV shows.