Players of the Week: Senate GOP leaders

Moves by Senate Republican leaders on immigration reform will be scrutinized closely.

The bipartisan Senate Gang of Eight has led the way on immigration reform so far this year. But the question now is, will Senate GOP leaders get in the way?

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Early indications are that they will not. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell expects Paul to return to Senate next week Former Hill staff calls for mandatory harassment training Gaming the odds of any GOP tax bill getting signed into law MORE (R-Ky.) has vowed to support a motion to proceed to the bill. Senate Minority Whip John CornynJohn CornynAfter Texas shooting, lawmakers question whether military has systemic reporting problem Overnight Defense: Lawmakers question military's lapse after Texas shooting | Trump asks North Korea to 'make a deal' | Senate panel approves Army pick Overnight Regulation: House passes bill to overturn joint-employer rule | Trump officials to allow work requirements for Medicaid | Lawmakers 'alarmed' by EPA's science board changes MORE (R-Texas) says he is trying to improve the bill’s provisions for border security. Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneOvernight Tech: Senate panel subpoenaed ex-Yahoo chief | Twitter gives all users 280 characters | FBI can't access Texas shooter's phone | EU wants tax answers from Apple Overnight Cybersecurity: What we learned from Carter Page's House Intel testimony | House to mark up foreign intel reform law | FBI can't access Texas shooter's phone | Sessions to testify at hearing amid Russia scrutiny Former Yahoo CEO subpoenaed to appear before Congress MORE (S.D.), the third-ranking Senate Republican, said Monday there is a “real possibility” that the Senate immigration bill will get more than 60 votes.

But will McConnell, Cornyn and Thune be among those 60? They’re not saying yet. Thune, like many senators, wants to wait until all amendments have been considered before deciding.

Cornyn voted “no” in committee, but some on Capitol Hill believe he could vote “yes” on the Senate bill or a final merged House-Senate measure. These observers note that the Hispanic population of Texas is booming, and that national GOP leaders such as Cornyn know the party must appeal much more to that growing ethnic group.

Like Cornyn, McConnell is up for reelection in 2014. It is speculated that both leaders could face primary challenges, but none have yet arisen.

McConnell voted for the 2006 immigration reform bill, which passed 62-36. But he did not vote for the 2007 measure to proceed. 

When immigration failed in those years, it was portrayed as a major defeat for then-President George W. Bush. Now, it’s a top priority for President Obama. 

Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress want a bill to pass, but disagree on its specifics. In many ways, it’s a left-right tug-of-war between Democrats and the GOP. Voting for the Senate bill poses dilemmas for many Republicans, and rank-and-file senators will be watching how their leaders handle the thorny issue.