In the Senate, a bipartisan bill on comprehensive immigration reform was introduced several weeks ago, and is already steadily working its way through the legislative process. The package, crafted by the "Gang of Eight," has so far remained intact, and proponents are spending the bulk of their time lining up more support for the bill.
There'd be reason for optimism, were it not for the far-right Republican majority in the House, where there is no bill, and the Senate version already has plenty of critics. Last night, however, for the first time in a long while, reform proponents received some good news from the lower chamber.
A bipartisan group in the House working on an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws reached a deal in principle Thursday evening, aides said. The group plans to introduce its bill in June. [...]The House group had been meeting and working on a nearly parallel track with a similar bipartisan group in the Senate, which has already introduced legislation that is now before the Senate Judiciary Committee. But until Thursday, the House group had yet to reach an agreement, and earlier this week the Republican members had threatened to walk away and introduce legislation of their own if a compromise could not be reached.
The talks very nearly collapsed, and last night's meeting was widely seen as a last-ditch effort. Apparently, it worked, and an "agreement in principle" was reached.
Of course, as is always the case, the devil is in the details, and as much as I'd like to tell you what's in the reform package, the elements of the agreement have not yet been released. A path to citizenship will reportedly exist, which is important, but it will also apparently be a longer path than is written into the Senate version. We'll know more next week, when the negotiators meet again to put the agreement in legislative form.
While most following the immigration debate expect the House bill to be to the right of the Senate bill -- which is already pretty conservative -- I should note that some reliable progressive reform champions, including Democratic Reps. Luis Gutierrez (Ill.), Zoe Lofgren (Calif.) and Xavier Becerra (Calif.), were part of the negotiations, and probably wouldn't have signed on to a bill that was too far to the right.
Looking ahead, it's easy to imagine some contentious arguments among lawmakers trying to work out differences between the House and Senate versions, but the fact that there will be House and Senate versions makes success more likely than it was 24 hours ago.