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 McConnellSenate passes 6B defense bill Poll: Kim Jong Un has higher approval among Republicans than Pelosi The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Outcry raises pressure on GOP for immigration fix MORE (R-Ky.) has vowed to support a motion to proceed to the bill. Senate Minority Whip John CornynJohn CornynTrump plan to claw back billion in spending in peril Trump digs in amid uproar on zero tolerance policy Amendments fuel resentments within Senate GOP MORE (R-Texas) says he is trying to improve the bill’s provisions for border security. Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump plan to claw back billion in spending in peril McConnell: Mueller 'ought to wrap it up' Graham jokes about Corker: GOP would have to be organized to be a cult 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.