After last night’s vote, the question isn’t whether comprehensive immigration reform will pass the Senate, but by what margin. A couple of weeks ago, there was still some chatter about whether the bipartisan bill could overcome a Republican filibuster, but that talk has since ended.
The bipartisan push to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws took a major step forward Monday evening when the Senate endorsed a proposal to substantially bolster security along the nation’s southern borders as part of a measure that would provide a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country.
The 67-to-27 vote prevented any filibuster of the plan to devote roughly $40 billion over the next decade to border enforcement measures, including nearly doubling the number of border agents to 40,000 and completing 700 miles of fencing. Opponents of the measure questioned whether the security steps would ever be taken and said that the legislation should require that the border be secure before undocumented immigrants could seek legal status.
At issue was the so-called “border surge” amendment crafted by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.), and tolerated by Senate Democrats, which is intended to resolve the one thing reform opponents said they wanted: more border security. And the push was largely successful: 67 senators backed the measure, which was widely seen as a test vote for the overall bill.
What’s more, the actual vote total would have been even higher, but two Democrats had travel problems and couldn’t reach the floor in time. Had Senate attendance been 100%, we would have seen a 69-31 vote.
This is, however, probably the ceiling. All 31 opponents of the Corker/Hoeven measure were Republicans, and it stands to reason that if they won’t support a “border surge,” they probably won’t back final passage, either. And if there are at least 31 “nay” votes, then proponents will probably fall just short of the symbolic 70+ threshold.
Regardless, the Gang of Eight’s larger strategy remains largely on track: pass a reform bill with a large, bipartisan majority, which will in turn pressure House Republicans to take up the popular, consensus bill. At least, that’s the theory. Whether House GOP leaders focus more on the will of their rank-and-file members, who vehemently oppose reform, or more on the party’s electoral needs – and their own legacy – remains to be seen.
Either way, we’ll find out soon enough – Senate passage is on track for later this week.