ADVERTISEMENT
In the past two weeks, as the bipartisan Senate immigration bill was unveiled, he has continued to do the heavy lifting with conservatives in an attempt, at best, to win their support or, at least, to convince them to keep an open mind.

The most striking thing about the political debate over immigration in 2013 and how it differs from what we saw during the McCain-Kennedy bill debate in 2007 is the reduced intensity of the opposition.

Perhaps political reality has set in. Perhaps times have changed and immigration has received less attention than other issues like national security and the economy and debt issues.

Or perhaps the opponents of any earned path to legalization are fewer and less vocal.

The most significant factor in changing the fortunes of immigration reform is the leadership of Rubio, who has single-handedly given conservative credibility to this approach, which was unthinkable during the McCain-Kennedy days.

McCain-Kennedy was a vastly different bill than what has been proposed here. Conditional legal status begins when the bill is signed, but that “status” differs only slightly from the de facto amnesty of our current system.

The opportunity to apply for a visa begins at the 10-year mark, and the process for earned citizenship begins, if the border security triggers are met, no sooner than 13 years after enactment, and only once the 4.8 million people already waiting in line are processed. For this trade-off, Republicans get the most serious border security effort in American history, implementation of the E-verify system for all employers, an improved legal immigration system and a temporary worker program for specific industries that need one.

The Rubio plan needs two things: improvement and momentum.

In an important floor speech on the bill on April 18, Sen. Rubio made clear that the bipartisan Senate bill is a starting point, not a take-it-or-leave-it bill. He asked every member, even those who may end up opposing it, to help improve the border security provisions.

This approach invites all senators to help, rather than making them reflexively defensive about the Gang of Eight’s behind-closed-doors meetings.

What are the political prospects for immigration this year?

In the Senate, the Judiciary Committee began hearings on the bill last week and will mark it up after this week’s recess. The markup will be interesting, as Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzIs this any way for NASA to build a lunar lander? GOP strategist predicts Biden will win nomination, cites fundraising strength 3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 MORE (R-Texas), John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters Democrats keen to take on Cornyn despite formidable challenges MORE (R-Texas), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeMcConnell, allies lean into Twitter, media 'war' Conservatives buck Trump over worries of 'socialist' drug pricing Criminal justice reform should extend to student financial aid MORE (R-Utah) and ranking member Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsA better way to run the Federal Bureau of Prisons Trump admin erases key environmental enforcement tool DOJ should take action against China's Twitter propaganda MORE (R-Ala.) will offer stronger border security language.

Ultimately, the bill has enough votes to get out of committee, with all of the Democrats and at least three Republicans approving it: likely to be Sens. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to economist, former Reagan adviser Arthur Laffer Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators MORE (R-Utah), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWhite House won't move forward with billions in foreign aid cuts GOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads Cindy McCain says no one in Republican Party carries 'voice of reason' after husband's death MORE (R-S.C.) and bill co-author Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeAnti-gun violence organization endorses Kelly's Senate bid Arpaio considering running for former sheriff job after Trump pardon Overnight Energy: Warren edges past Sanders in poll of climate-focused voters | Carbon tax shows new signs of life | Greens fuming at Trump plans for development at Bears Ears monument MORE (R-Ariz.).

The full Senate will consider the bill over a period of weeks before the July 4 recess. While some will offer “poison pill” amendments, sincere efforts to improve the bill will only add to its eventual support and minimize the strength of those who remain opposed.

I believe the most likely scenario is Senate passage with at least 70 votes in late June.

The House is important for two reasons.

First, they may dim the Senate bill’s hopes if they demonstrate adamant majority opposition to any earned path to citizenship, something I suspect will not occur. Second, they must pass something.

The House will use regular order and likely advance individual bills dealing with individual provisions, giving members the opportunity to support or oppose each as they see fit, rather than be asked to swallow an entire reform bill.

While the process in the House, which initially will be led by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteUSCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Immigrant advocacy groups shouldn't be opposing Trump's raids Top Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview MORE (R-Va.), will be both fascinating and good theater, from a legislative standpoint, all that matters is that they pass something. The Senate needs a House vehicle so the two bodies can get to a conference committee to hammer out one version.

The timing of this is unpredictable, but ultimately I expect Congress will be asked to approve a compromise, comprehensive bill by year’s end. Next year is a campaign year for the House and one-third of the Senate, and in reality a thorny issue like this cannot be dealt with in good faith in a campaign year.

The immigration issue is likely to dominate the political news for much of the next two months, but the likely result is that at the end of an intense period, the Senate will pass the Rubio plan and the House will pass something, making final passage more likely by year’s end.

Matt Mackowiak is an Austin, Texas, and Washington-based Republican consultant and president of Potomac Strategy Group, LLC. He has been an adviser to two U.S. senators and a governor, and has advised federal and state political campaigns across the country.