Ayotte will support immigration bill

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) on Sunday endorsed the Gang of Eight’s bipartisan immigration reform proposal, saying she had studied the bill “carefully.”

“This is a thoughtful, bipartisan solution to a tough problem and so that’s why I’m going to support it,” said Ayotte on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Ayotte’s support could prove critical in helping the bill pass the Senate. Her backing brings supporters closer to the 60-vote threshold needed to override a possible GOP filibuster.

But the measure still faces a tough fight as the upper chamber begins votes this week.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), one of four Republicans who helped draft the bill, last week threatened to vote against the legislation unless there were tougher border security measures demanded by conservatives.

Ayotte said that the bill was needed to fix an immigration system that was “completely broken.”

“We’ve got 11 million people living in this country illegally in the shadows, we have a legal immigration system that isn’t meeting our needs to grow our economy,” she said.

Ayotte defended measures in the bill that would grant a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country, moves opposed by many GOP conservatives as “amnesty.”

The New Hampshire senator called the provisions “a tough but fair way for them to earn citizenship.”

“Go to the back of the line, pay taxes, pass a criminal background check, learn English,” she said.

Ayotte said she didn’t think it was likely that the bill would face a filibuster.

“I don’t think anyone wants to filibuster this,” she said.

“The status quo is unacceptable.”