Passing immigration reform is a way for Republicans to get on a positive agenda and regain some of the approval of the American people, Sen. John McCain said Tuesday during a town hall in Tucson.

He said the prospects of passing comprehensive immigration reform this year are still strong despite some Republicans saying the government shutdown and the way it was handled by President Obama affected any chance for compromise.

But “the same people that said that are the people that oppose immigration reform. They are just trying to find another reason,” McCain said after the town hall meeting attended by about 50 people at El Pueblo Regional Center, near West Irvington Road and South Sixth Avenue.

“There’s motivation for us to come together and work on legislation we can then bring back to the American people and regain some of their approval,” McCain said, citing a high disapproval rating for Congress and the federal government in general.

According to a CBS News poll, 85 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Congress does its job — the highest percentage recorded since CBS began asking the question in 1977.

And more Americans blame the Republicans in Congress than blame Obama and Democrats for the partial government shutdown and the difficulties in reaching an agreement on the debt ceiling, the poll found.

Despite McCain’s efforts to bring the discussion back to immigration reform, most of the questions and comments Tuesday were about the shutdown, the perceived ineffectiveness of Congress and the health law — a reflection of the uphill battle for immigration reform.

The Senate passed a comprehensive bill in June that includes a path to legal status and a so-called border surge that would double the number of Border Patrol agents to nearly 40,000.

But House Republican leaders have said they are not going to consider the Senate’s proposal, instead tackling the issue a bill at a time.

Since lawmakers returned to D.C. after the August recess, their days have been filled dealing with the conflict in Syria and budget issues that resulted in a 16-day partial government shutdown.Seeking to shape comprehensive immigration reform, U.S. Reps. Raúl Grijalva and Filemon Vela of Texas introduced a bill last month that shifts the focus to the ports of entry and the environment.

Even if the bill is not likely to be brought for a full vote, the lawmakers said they wanted to keep the focus on immigration reform.

And House Democrats unveiled their immigration bill earlier this month that mirrors the bill passed in the Senate, except for the border security provision. It also has a very small chance of being presented for a vote.

Later in the day, McCain said in an interview with KFYI-AM in Phoenix that he’s considering running for a sixth term in 2016, The Associated Press reported.

Contact reporter Perla Trevizo at or 573-4210. On Twitter: @Perla_Trevizo.