Immigration bill on track to pass Senate

There has been a lot of speculation about whether the Senate immigration reform bill has the votes to pass.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) last month suggested it didn’t. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) then said it did. But Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said nope, still short.

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There is much posturing, but the chances of immigration reform passing the Senate are very, very good.

On Tuesday, the Gang of Eight’s measure cleared two procedural hurdles, the first by a count of 84-15. Among those who voted “yes” was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who voted against procedural motions on immigration reform in 2007.

It’s unclear whether McConnell and other Senate Republicans will vote for on final passage. The minority leader is up for reelection next year, and says the bill needs “major changes.”

Many Republicans, including McConnell and Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (Texas), are pushing for tougher border-security provisions. Democrats, such as Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), are defending the enforcement parts of the underlying bill.

Reid has called Cornyn’s border-security amendment a “poison pill.”

Despite the occasional salvo this spring, immigration reform is headed for passage in the Senate. That doesn’t mean it will pass. After all, it was a

Democratic “poison pill” amendment that helped kill immigration reform in the George W. Bush administration. But today’s odds are clearly better than 50-50.

House GOP leaders are not going to pass the Senate immigration bill, no matter how it changes through the amendment process. They will look to pass their own legislation and get into a conference committee with the Senate.

There is a bipartisan gang in the House working on immigration reform, but the group has failed to produce a bill. Even if it did, the lower chamber is unlikely to pass one large bill.

Instead, the Judiciary Committee could chop it up into pieces that are easier for conservatives to digest, and try to pass each bit by itself. That would suit the right far better than a bill similar to the Senate measure, which comes in at more than 1,000 pages.

Deadlines are coming into focus. The Senate wants to pass its bill by July 4 and the House would like to clear legislation by the August recess. A final bill could be on President Obama’s desk by the end of 2013.

If it is passed, Obama will have added another landmark bill to his resume. If it falters, 2013 will be viewed as a very disappointing year for the president’s domestic agenda.