Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said it's "unlikely" that the
Senate would move on immigration reform this year.
Durbin said that a tough political environment, especially for Republicans, made it all but politically impossible to move forward with an immigration bill.
"It's unlikely we'll get to it this year," Durbin told the liberal Bill Press radio show, pointing to the political environment.
A group of Democratic senators released their outline for comprehensive immigration legislation several weeks ago. That proposal, by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), would emphasize border security before providing a path to U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrants.
"Can we do it? Unlikely," Durbin said of the chances of that bill advancing. "You saw what happened in Utah to Bob Bennett."
Reid himself has acknowledged that the current Senate make-up, where Democrats need at least one Republican vote to advance legislation, made immigration reform tougher. But the majority leader had for a time planned to move immigration next, after Democrats wrap up their Wall Street reform bill.
Reid backed off pushing forward on immigration when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) threatened to withdraw from talks on both that issue and energy and climate legislation.
Durbin still said there was a "remote chance" that Democrats would move an immigration bill, but did not sound an optimistic note.
The decision on moving immigration has political trade-offs for Democrats. On one hand, they may manage to avoid a potentially divisive fight over an immigration bill that might put centrists in their party on the spot. On the other, advocates of immigration reform in the party like Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) have warned that Latino voters might stay home out of frustration with Democrats, if they fail to put together a bill.