White House spokesman Jay Carney on Friday lauded a Senate “breakthrough” in immigration reform negotiations that came in the form of a Republican-sponsored amendment to the Gang of Eight's proposed legislation.
On Thursday, Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) announced an agreement to bolster security along the southern border. The amendment would double the number of border patrol agents to 40,000 and mandates additional surveillance technology, as well as the construction of 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The details of the amendment have not been released, but Carney said President Obama was “certainly pleased that Republicans and Democrats continue to work together” on the immigration overhaul.
Carney said border security is of paramount concern to the president, but that “he insists all his principles be met, including a clear path to citizenship.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a member of the Gang of Eight and the central Republican figure in the immigration reform push, supports the amendment, and has said he hopes it will solidify bipartisan support for the Gang of Eight immigration reform bill.
Rubio has been in the cross hairs of conservatives that have criticized the legislation as weak on border security. Corker said his amendment was so strong on border security that it was “almost overkill.”
Rubio’s backing could be critical in helping the measure win Republican support for passing immigration reform with an overwhelming majority in the Senate. It’s a critical time for the bill, which had been losing support among Republicans in recent weeks.
The Corker-Hoeven amendment has given the bill new life, however, and could be the tipping point that puts the bill’s sponsors in striking distance of their goal to pass the bill with at least 70 votes.
Still, even if the bill gets an overwhelming majority in the Senate, it faces an uphill climb in the House, where Republican leadership was railroaded on Thursday by its more conservative members, who contributed to the defeat a farm bill championed by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio.).