This past Sunday, on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) gave an optimistic forecast for the path immigration reform legislation has in the upper chamber.
“We’re going to put immigration on the floor starting on June 10. I predict it will pass the Senate by July 4. We’re hoping to get 70 votes — up to 70 votes, which means a lot of Republicans,” he said.
Here’s hoping the senior senator from New York is correct. But before we celebrate the institution’s return to its rightful place as the “world’s greatest deliberative body,” I think we should be cautious.
Cautious optimism ahead of immigration reform
Mr. Schumer is the Senate’s third-ranking Democrat and a member of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” that came together shortly after the 2012 election to craft legislation that stood a chance of being approved in a deeply divided Senate.
Two other members of the ‘gang’ — Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — each mentioned in separate interviews that their bill overhauling our antiquated immigration system does not yet have the 60 votes necessary to beat a filibuster attempt that some Senate Republicans may be planning.
“We don’t currently have 60 votes identified in the Senate,” Menendez said during an interview with Jorge Ramos on Univision’s “Al Punto” program. “We need to add more votes on the floor.”
Rubio agreed. Appearing on “Fox and Friends,” the Republican Party star said, “No [the legislation does not have the 60 'yes' votes], and I think even the Democrats would concede that.”
In addition to his positive outlook for approval of this incredibly important bill, Schumer went a step further by promising to allow amendments on the legislation as well.
So, for those of you keeping score at home, Mr. Schumer is saying that this bill — the product of months of negotiations — will hit the Senate floor Monday, will face several amendments any of which could damage its chances of becoming law, but will still be approved by July 4 with close to — if not exactly — 70 votes. Very ambitious, senator.
What Democratic Party leaders believe is that Republicans need to work with them on immigration reform. They point to President Barack Obama winning reelection in large part due to the support of 71 percent of Hispanic voters and 73 percent of Asian voters. How could the GOP kill the best opportunity we have in a generation to achieve meaningful immigration reform and hope to win the support of these large, growing and increasingly influential voters, the reasoning goes?
I think that line of thinking is too simplistic. Most elected officials have little to no incentive to compromise. It doesn’t bring the contributions that campaigns need to operate, nor does it buy you goodwill with the bases of the two major political parties. At this time, compromise really is a dirty word in Washington.
Take Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. You’d think he would have a unique appreciation of the need for immigration reform given the state he was recently elected to represent. But no.
He just signed a letter with fellow conservatives Sens. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Mike Lee (Utah), and Chuck Grassley (Iowa) blasting S. 744. All sit on the Judiciary Committee, which approved the bill on a 13-5 vote last month. The senators insisted that they were in favor of reform, “but only if it actually fixes the broken system…”
I think that’s the point of the bipartisan legislation, senators.
The rest of the letter makes clear that the group is very skeptical and outright hostile towards enacting a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented individuals who currently live in the United States. Most experts will tell you that this must or at least should be a key part of any reform effort.
Some are speculating that because of the inclusion of a pathway for citizenship — which would take up to 13 years for applicants — the group led by Cruz may even attempt to filibuster the reform effort. That is why reaching the 70-vote mark Schumer mentioned as a possibility would be very surprising.
Americans seem to be even more skeptical. According to a Quinnipiac University study released this week, American voters believe that members of Congress will fail to approve an immigration reform package by a margin of 71-24.
Despite the possible roadblocks, I remain confident that reform will be approved in the Senate, although with some 60 to 65 votes. The members of the Gang of Eight have been remarkably disciplined in maintaining the core principles of the legislation and have stuck together to vote down amendments in the Judiciary Committee that would have altered the legislation in any significant way, or threatened its passage in the broader body.
“We are moving forward because we believe in a bipartisan way this is so vital for America, and we’ll have a good bill,” Schumer noted.
Now there’s a statement I think most can agree with.
Let’s hope that a filibuster will be avoided, the legislation faces a vote, and is approved.
What about the House of Representatives and its immigration reform efforts, you ask? Oh, that’s a whole other blog post…