Player of the Week: Senate Judiciary Committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to pass sweeping landmark immigration reform later this week, but there will be some drama between now and then.

A slew of politically sensitive amendments need to be dealt with, ranging from H-1B visas to gay rights. 

Republicans said that Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vt.) amendment that would provide equal treatment for same-sex couples would torpedo the entire bill. Leahy has not said he will offer the measure, but if he does, at least one Democrat on the Judiciary panel would have to vote “no” to kill it. 

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All Democrats back the spirit of the measure. There is speculation, however, that Sens. Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Charles Schumer (N.Y.), who are both in the bipartisan Gang of Eight immigration group, might vote against it.

Gay-rights supporters are pressing for the adoption of the Leahy legislation. President Obama has noted his support behind the spirit of the measure, but noted that compromise is the key to passing an immigration bill.

If the gay-rights amendment is rejected, the underlying immigration bill could get anywhere from 12 to 14 votes on the 18-member Judiciary panel.

All 10 Democrats are expected to back the final product, and Gang of Eight Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) are firm “yes” votes.

Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) are expected to vote “no.”

Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) are seen as possible “yes” votes. Hatch has been working closely with key Democrats on easing employer restrictions on hiring foreign high-skilled workers. If he gets what he wants on the H-1-B issue, he will vote “yes.”

Cornyn, a high-ranking member of leadership, hails from a state that has seen an explosion in the growth of Hispanics. But he and Cruz have voted similarly a lot this year, and Cruz has blasted the bill’s path to citizenship provisions.

Democrats want to get 70 votes on the Senate floor. To do that, they will have to broaden the GOP support beyond the Gang of Eight. The immigration measure will pass the Judiciary panel, but it will have far more momentum if it passes 14-4 as opposed to 12-6.


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