The Senate voted 68-32 on Thursday to successfully pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Now, as eyes turn to the House, here’s the state of play:
- A bipartisan group of Representatives has shrunk by one as conservative Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) withdrew early in June, leaving a Gang of Seven
- Reports are that health care benefits are the primary remaining sticking point
- Republican House Speaker John Boehner is pledging to only move bills that have a support of a majority of his party (234 → 118)
- Republican House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte is moving piecemeal immigration bills through the committee, including a border security bill and a high-skilled immigration bill, as well as a bill specifically focusing on employee verification.
- Democrats insist that the package of bills include a process for undocumented immigrants (~11M in the country by best estimate) to eventually become citizens, which many Republicans oppose
Here’s what we can pick out from the Senate vote:
- Traditional Republican areas voted against the bill (South, Great Plains, Mountain West)
- States represented by a split of a Republican and Democratic Senator saw a number of no-yes split votes, respectively
- Senate Republican leadership voted en masse against the bill—Leader McConnell (R-KY), Whip Cornyn (R-TX), Conference Chair Thune (R-SD), Vice-Conference Chair Blunt (R-MO), Campaign Chair Moran (R-KS), and Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Grassley (R-IA)—giving cover for Republican Majority leadership to oppose the Senate bill
- Senate Republicans voted against the bill 14-32, meaning that an approximate percentage of House Republicans in support would give a majority of the House (201 Democrats + 71 Republicans) in favor of a comprehensive bill, if it were to be allowed to come to a vote—a gross oversimplificiation
We can expect that House Judiciary Chair Goodlatte (R-VA, Roanoke) will continue his progression of piecemeal bills through the House, though none will include a specific process for undocumented immigrants to become citizens, instead only allowing legal work status without a possibility of becoming a citizen. That will likely be a deal-breaker for Democrats.
The question is whether or not Democrats can get a bill they’re happy with to a final vote, as it’s got decent odds of passing. We might see the discharge petition used as a lever to accomplish this goal, which is rare.
Alternatively, Republicans pass a series of immigration bills and head to a Senate-House conference to iron out the differences. Assuming Democrats succeed in conference in insisting on many of the Senate details, the House response to a final conference report that a majority of the majority is unhappy with will be very interesting.