Politics

06.25.13

The Senate's Immigration Vote

So the Senate voted last night to let the immigration bill proceed, surpassing the needed 60 votes by seven for a final 67-27 tally. Here's the roll call.

That makes everybody feel good and talk about how the system can work and so on, but I see the glass as half-empty. This tally means that a majority of Republicans voted against the bill--27 against and just 15 for. Of the four R's who voted against, my guesstimate is that three of them would have voted no, so basically, R's made a rather strong statement that they oppose immigration reform. Mitch McConnell, their leader, voted no--remember, not on the substance of the bill, just on the idea of moving it forward.

It was said before the vote that 75 yeas would have meant that about half of R's voted for it, and that was considered a kind of benchmark that might have signaled to the House that the GOP as a party wanted reform. That signal has not been sent.

In fact, I don't think the House cares much about the Senate's signals one way or the other. And I wouldn't put too much stock in Paul Ryan's strongly pro-bill stance; he's just positioning himself to get credit if it passes, which will make him and Marco Rubio the two pro-reform 2016 candidates. This apparently is his gamble, and it isn't crazy: One pro-reform candidate will make it to the final two, and he has reason to think it'll be him, not Rubio.

The only thing that really matters here is what's going on in John Boehner's brain. If he permits a bill to come to the floor, there's little doubt it will pass. Given the large number of Democrats who'll vote yes, it will need only about one in 10 Republicans to vote yea.

But don't look for that decision anytime soon. The House will delay this for a while. It may not vote until December. Yep, December. And it may chop the Senate bill to pieces. The nightmare scenario is that the House passes the border security part but won't pass the path to citizenship part. Then we'll stuck with a bill that has border security only! Actually, the Dems will walk away from that, so there'll no bill. This is still a very real possibility.

And if Boehner does push it through, that may be the end of his speakership. Then we get Eric Cantor tussling with the next President Clinton. Hoo boy.