June 16th, 2013
12:53 PM ET
10 months ago

Immigration bill shaping up, but fate still uncertain

(CNN) - While the future of immigration reform is still in question, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a member of the bipartisan Gang of Eight, predicted the Senate will pass the bill with 70 votes or more.

“I think we're going to have a political breakthrough, that Congress is going to pass immigration reform. I think we're going to get plus 70 votes,” he said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I've never been more optimistic about it.”

His GOP colleague in the Gang of Eight, Sen. Marco Rubio, doesn't sound quite as confident. The senator from Florida maintains the bill is almost in “perfect shape” but reiterated it needs tweaks to its border security provisions.

Meanwhile, a Democratic member of their bipartisan group, Sen. Bob Menendez, said those changes must not undermine one of the bill’s main provisions, which offers a pathway to citizenship.

The Senate voted last week to begin debate on the bill, and senators have already started filing amendments to the legislation. But the measure’s fate hangs on whether Republicans can find a solution that can win favor among enough representatives in the GOP-controlled House.

Rubio has been aggressive in stating that he may withdraw support from his own bill if the measure does not include language that would further boost border security and enforcement–a requirement for many conservatives.

The Republican senator said “95, 96% of the bill is in perfect shape and ready to go, but there are elements that need to be improved.”

“The vast majority of Americans and conservative Republicans are prepared to support immigration reform, but only if we can ensure we're not going to have another wave of illegal immigration in the future,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Menendez, however, suggested Democrats have already made big compromises, saying the bill adds $6.5 billion in funds for border security and includes senators from border states as authors of the bill. (Republican Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain of Arizona are part of the Gang of Eight.)

“There are critics of our bill in which - 10 angels could come swearing from above that this is the best legislation for America, and they would say the angels lie. So, those I can never solve or satisfy,” Menendez said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The New Jersey Democrat said his party is open to changes in the border plan, but maintained he “cannot support” a requirement that the border be certified secure before undocumented immigrants are allowed to begin their pathway to citizenship.

Senators rejected such a proposal last week by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who wanted to delay the legalization process for millions until the Department of Homeland Security could certify it had effective control over the southern border for six months.

But others in the House still favor a similar effort and may pursue that as an option should the bill pass the Senate.

“We're going to have triggers that can never be achieved in terms of border security as an impediment to the pathway to legalization and citizenship,” Menendez said, fervently disagreeing with the idea.

In the end, he said, he thinks the bill will get enough votes to pass and will win over his colleagues on the other side of Capitol Hill.

“When we hit 60 votes, which we will, I have no doubt that other people will want to be on the right side of history, and that will send a very strong message to the House,” he said.

For his part, Graham cautioned that if Congress doesn't pass reform, Republicans will have little chance of taking back the White House in 2016.

"We're in a demographic death spiral as a party, and the only way we can get back in good graces with the Hispanic community, in my view, is pass comprehensive immigration reform," he said on NBC.

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soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. robert

    Although the term amnesty does not appear in the bill. And of the synonyms for amnesty (forgive, remit, condone, forgive, excuse), only forgiveness is mentioned; on page 495.
    “Loan forgiveness: The Director may expend funds from the Account for
    purposes of loan forgiveness or repayment of student loans which led to a low-income student obtaining a degree in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or other high demand fields.”

    I am troubled that someone who came here illegally would be forgiven for a student loan when such forgiveness will not be extended to students who came here legally or who were born here.

    June 16, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  2. Rick McDaniel

    We still have to rely on the larger sensibility of the House, with its many more members, to stop stupid legislation. The Senate has lost any and all sensibilities, when it comes to good legislation.

    June 16, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  3. ALamb

    let's put American Citizens first and the future of our country first and NOT pander to special interests including crass ethnic politics!

    June 16, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  4. Robert McCabe

    Thank God there is a mutiny going on with John Boehner that is with Michelle Bachman,Rep. King from Iowa and Rep.from Texas to say no to the monstrosity of amnesty.

    June 16, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  5. Thomas

    Gang of Eight , I love that

    Sounds like a hip hop group

    June 16, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  6. Ron

    Hey, ALLL of you... Please listen. The Hispanic community continues to grow here in the U.S. How 'bout we solve the immigration problem, By taking over Mexico... for example. Mexico has been suffering severe gang problems, and overall,, is not safe to even visit anymore. THE ANSWER....... A complete takeover... now I know what all you rights activists are thinking, but the scene in many other countries is more grim than here. Take a look at the world news, stay connected, and think before you claim him and her, this and that are racist.. The U.S. in BUILT on immigration .... we need to expand our horizons and boarders. I think it is the only way to help.

    June 16, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  7. ya rights

    None of the above and kill this bill!

    June 16, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  8. Just

    Why would absolute lawbreakers be rewarded with anything? Mexican illegals didn't follow any US law, culture or custom before and they will not in the future. The USA will continue to accept these uneducated unskilled parasites until the USA as it was know is unrecognizable. .

    June 16, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  9. emskadittle

    the house won't pass this, they will just leave rubio swing out in the wind

    June 16, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  10. Donkey Party

    The GOP was never serious about immigration reform, they're more concerned with chasing phony scandals that lead nowhere, but get plenty of airtime. Republicans hate government, but they love the fat checks and full benefits they get for not doing a damn thing. They're the ultimate welfare queens.

    June 16, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |