Senate Republicans help immigration bill advance, but will they vote for it? (+video)
The vote Tuesday was proof, say supporters of immigration reform, that the majority of Senate Republicans believe it would be politically toxic to be labeled obstructionists.
Senate Republicans have dodged being easily tarred for blocking immigration reform, as more than half their caucus helped Democrats Tuesday overcome a pair of procedural hurdles to amending and debating the comprehensive immigration bill.Skip to next paragraph
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Yet whether the GOP decides the bipartisan Senate immigration fix is ultimately better than the current broken system remains an open question.
Many Republicans who voted in the affirmative Tuesday also said the bill needed significant changes to gain their final approval. Several cited an amendment from Sen. John Cornyn (R) of Texas that aims to amp up border security as a key requirement.
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“I think the status quo is completely unacceptable,” Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky told reporters after voting for the measure. “The legal immigration improvements in the bill are really quite good things that we should have done years ago. The contentious parts of it obviously are in the categories of benefits [for those in the country illegally] and border [security].”
The Senate moved ahead on the immigration reform bill Tuesday with two heavily bipartisan votes. The second, which passed on an 84-15 vote, saw 30 Republicans join all 54 Democrats in support. (Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona, one of the bill’s sponsors, is a surefire “yes,” but missed both votes.)
The broad GOP support was a strongly positive sign for conservative immigration reformers.
“You saw a majority of the caucus wanted to proceed to the bill – that doesn’t mean they’re going to vote for it, but it does mean they are in play,” says Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina, one of the bipartisan “Gang of 8” who authored the Senate bill. “And one or two people who voted against cloture may come into play later on if we can improve the bill.”
The 15 ‘no’ votes highlighted those Republicans, led by long-time critics like Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) of Alabama and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) of Iowa, who are all but dead-set against the reform measure.
But despite a core of stalwart opponents, Republicans including Senators McConnell and Cornyn, the top two GOP Senate leaders, lent their assent to the bill, which majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada plans to see safely out of the chamber by month’s end. House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio recently said he expected the House to be ready to begin it’s own immigration debate in July.