Clearing hurdles

Immigration reform is incredibly hard to pass, evidenced by the fact that the last comprehensive bill to pass occurred in 1986.

There are fragile, bipartisan coalitions working in both the House and Senate to pass an immigration bill. The Senate “Gang of Eight” is expected to release legislation by the end of this month, while the House group claims it is making significant progress on unveiling legislation.

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But any change in the political winds — or an unexpected controversy — threatens to kill the legislative effort.

Last month, GOP senators were furious that the Obama administration’s plan on immigration was leaked to the press. Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioSunday shows preview: Bernie soldiers on Fla. Senate candidate bashes Rubio The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Fla.), a front-runner for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, called it dead on arrival. Sen. John McCainJohn McCainTrump should apologize to heroic POWs McCain urges sports leagues to return 'paid patriotism' money Senators to Obama: Make 'timely' call on Afghan troops levels MORE (R-Ariz.) suggested that the administration purposely leaked the document.

All of a sudden, it looked like immigration reform was going to crash before takeoff.

But President Obama called the Republican senators in the Gang of Eight, a gesture that was rare from the president during his first term.
McCain and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamSenators to Obama: Make 'timely' call on Afghan troops levels Senate amendments could sink email privacy compromise Trump: Romney 'walks like a penguin' MORE (R-S.C.) praised Obama at a subsequent meeting at the White House on immigration.

“It’s one of the best meetings I ever had with the president,” Graham said.

Soon after that was fire was extinguished, another came in the form of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R).

In his new book that was written last year, the possible 2016 White House candidate opposed a pathway to citizenship and made similar comments on Monday.

This is threatening to blow up the immigration talks because it appears that Bush, surprisingly, is running to Rubio’s right on the issue.

Bush on Tuesday pivoted and said he did not “have a problem” with providing a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. He added that like others in his party, he has recently shifted his position on immigration.

There is an unmistakable rivalry between Rubio and Bush. After Rubio suggested that a series of bills might be necessary on immigration, Bush criticized that approach (without naming Rubio) as “shortsighted and self-defeating.”

On Tuesday, Bush was the one taking criticism. Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidSanders tests Wasserman Schultz Nearly 400 House bills stuck in Senate limbo Puerto Rico debt relief faces serious challenges in Senate MORE (D-Nev.) blasted Bush for “making a fool of himself. ... Let’s wait for a few minutes and see how Jeb Bush changes his mind again.”

The bottom line is that immigration reform this week cleared another hurdle. There are sure to be many others in the weeks and months ahead.