Reid sets July deadline for immigration

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) has set an end-of-month deadline for Senate passage of immigration reform, giving the chamber three weeks to debate legislation on the floor.

“We are going to finish the bill before the July 4 recess,” Reid said Thursday. “We need to finish this bill and we’re going to do it as quick as we can.”

Reid added that the issue has already been thoroughly discussed in committee.

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“There are very few pieces of legislation that we’ve had come to the floor in recent years that has been [as] thoroughly discussed, debated and presented as this,” he said.

Reid has met with Republicans and told them they have already had weeks to review the legislation during the Judiciary Committee’s markup last month.

“Everybody knows pretty much what this bill is about,” he said. “No one can complain about not having had time to read the bill. They’ve read it, they’ve studied it and there’s no reason we can’t finish this debate quickly.”

The July recess will begin after the last week of June.

Senate Democrats met Thursday afternoon to discuss their strategy for handling amendments to the legislation, President Obama’s top domestic initiative.

The Senate will vote to end debate on the motion to proceed to the immigration bill at 2:15 pm Tuesday and then vote to proceed at 4 p.m.

Members of the Senate Gang of Eight, which drafted the bill, have set a goal of passing it with 70 votes, but Reid is more focused on clearing the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster.

Reid downplayed speculation that Democrats must accept an amendment by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) strengthening border security in order to push the bill to final passage. Rubio is a member of the Gang of Eight.

“We are interested in getting as many votes as we can and getting as many votes as we can does not depend on any one amendment,” he said. “I am totally convinced that there is tremendous momentum to get this legislation passed no matter what people are saying on the record, off the record.”

Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the lead Democratic sponsor of the bill, said “the momentum is getting stronger every day,” citing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, agribusinesses, evangelicals and the high-tech community.

He said those groups are contacting undecided senators to urge them to support the bill.

Schumer said Democrats are willing to strengthen the border-security provisions but do not want to give anti-immigration opponents a chance to block the path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally.