Two bills going in different directions

Gun control and immigration reform bills are going in very different directions.

Senate Democrats are setting up a showdown vote later this week on a motion to proceed on gun control, confident they have the necessary 60 votes.

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But where gun control goes after that is anyone’s guess. The background-check language in the legislation that will be brought to the floor is opposed by most Republicans; unless there is a bipartisan agreement later this month, the background-check provisions might have be tossed out to get a gun control bill through the Senate.

Gun control activists would then have to decide if they will embrace or reject a watered-down version that addresses school training and gun trafficking.

It could take the upper chamber a few weeks to vote, and that timetable could help the White House broker a deal with the GOP.

The Hill reported on Tuesday that President Obama has been calling senators to round up support for the beleaguered legislation. Vice President Biden, first lady Michelle Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are also pressing the case for Congress to pass the bill.

The all-hands-on-deck approach hasn’t changed votes, however, and the start of the debate on the Senate floor could drive both parties further apart.

The GOP-led House does not appear close to releasing legislation on the issue, though the chamber’s Judiciary Committee has been holding hearings.

Immigration reform is an entirely different story. Bipartisan groups in both the House and Senate say they are very close to releasing immigration bills. The details of what exactly will be in these measures are unclear, but it is clear that many Democrats and Republicans want to send a bill to Obama’s desk this year.

That was the case during former President George W. Bush’s administration, but immigration reform died twice during his second term.

Republicans are still smarting from last year’s election, when Obama got more than 7 out of every 10 Hispanic votes against GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

The fate of immigration reform will have an enormous impact on the career of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a member of the bipartisan Gang of Eight on immigration and a front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. Rubio will be tasked with selling the plan to the right — and to his credit, he has engaged conservative pundits who are very skeptical of what he is doing.

The bottom line is that immigration reform has a long way to go, but it’s in a better place than gun control.