Reporting Tim Kephart
Legislative Session Coverage
WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – The Democratic-controlled United States Senate overwhelmingly passed an immigration reform bill Thursday that could impact more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. But, the massive reform may never get to President Barack Obama’s desk.
The bill, which has come together thanks to a bipartisan group of senators, nicknamed the “Gang of Eight,” includes a pathway to citizenship, tax penalties, and enhanced border security.
The final vote on the bill was 68-32, just shy of the goal of 70 votes.
The bill has tilted more conservative in recent weeks as Democrats tried to attract the maximum number of Republican votes in the Senate as possible. The primary tilt has come on border security which was a focus of many Senate Republicans.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla) has helped lead the charge for the Senate bill. He has suffered losses amongst tea party conservatives, but has still forged ahead with the immigration plan he helped construct as a member of the so-called “Gang of Eight.”
The border security enhancements come thanks to an amendment agreed upon earlier this week. The amendment will put 40,000 agents along the border, lengthen a border fence, and pump another billion dollars into border security.
Only after those enhancements are in place will undocumented immigrants be offered a path to citizenship that could take up to a decade to complete. The bill has the support of many in the business community and a majority of democrats.
House Republicans, led by a tea party uprising of the most conservative members, will not take up the Senate immigration bill, according to a report from Politico.com quoting Republican Representative Paul Ryan.
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) told his conference the Senate bill is dead on arrival, according to the National Journal. Speaker Boehner has also vowed not to bring a bill to the floor that violates the “Hastert Rule” which states no bill will come to the floor without support from a majority of the majority.
Boehner went one step further saying that even if an immigration bill was passed by the House and went to a committee with the Senate, the bill emerging from the Senate would also be subject to the unwritten “Hastert Rule.”
Speaker Boehner may have to pass a bill out of the House that will contain no pathway to citizenship, which would be a nonstarter for Democrats in the Senate.
But Boehner’s options are limited by the tea party representatives who have told the Speaker that if he violates the “Hastert Rule” again, they will seek to oust him from the Speaker position.
House Republicans are in a very precarious political position. If the House kills immigration reform, it runs the risk of creating an overwhelming Hispanic majority in the Democratic Party. If the House passes immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship; GOP members risk alienating the most conservative voters who typically turn out for primaries.
State Republican leaders are also planning to go after Democratic Senators like Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana if they vote to support the immigration reform plan, according to the Hill.com.
The House has defied Senate supermajorities in the past including the Violence Against Women Act, which the House rewrote only to see it voted down and the Senate version passed and last week’s farm bill which blew up after conservatives tried to tuck in a measure too far to the right for House Democrats to support.
The bill will likely be put into the House’s court as early as Thursday, which could pit Republican Senators and Republican House members on opposite ends of the immigration issue and threaten to divide the party ahead of the 2014 mid-term elections.
Because if immigration reform passes with a pathway to citizenship and GOP voters get demoralized, it could open the door for Democrats to try to regain control of the House.