Comprehensive immigration reform got a major boost from a Republican amendment to dramatically increase the number of border patrol troops (the "border surge" it's being called) and complete a fence on the Mexico-U.S. border.
Senator Bob Corker (above) along with his colleauge John Hoeven may have just saved comprehensive immigration reform with their "border surge" amendment. PHOTO: Public domain.
Comprehensive immigration reform got a major boost from a Republican amendment to dramatically increase the number of border patrol troops (the "border surge" it's being called) and complete a fence on the Mexico-U.S. border. The amendment, from Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) would increase the number of border troops from 21,000 to 40,000, and shows a real desire from Republicans to get immigration reform done.
"I don't know what the hell is going to happen," said Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the "gang of eight," which worked out the framework for the initial draft of bipartisan immigration reform, "but we're on the verge of doing something dramatic on the border, and if it happens, it will be due to Hoeven and Corker and a lot of our colleagues."
The Hoeven-Corker amendment could be what draws together several forces to make immigration reform happen. Democrats have been split between offering the strongest bill that they could that would still pass the Senate--Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) the number two Democrat in the Senate, favors this approach--and crafting a bill that would get broad bipartisan support--70 or more votes--to put pressure on the House to pass the bill. This approach is favored by the number three Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Assuming every Democrat votes for the bill, plus the four Republicans in the gang of eight, plus Corker and Hoeven (assuming their amendment passes) that's 61 votes, enough to beat a filibuster. We can probably add at least two more Republican votes, to bring the total up to the mid-60s. It probably won't reach Schumer's mark of 70, but impressive nonetheless, especially for this Congress, and likely enough to satisfy both the Durbin and Schumer approach.
If the Hoeven-Corker amendment sways Senate Republicans, it may provide enough cover for a majority of House Republicans to favor the bill. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) threw a potential monkey wrench into the bill making it to President Obama's desk when he said that he would return to the "Hastert rule," meaning he would only pass the bill with the support of a majority of Republicans. That's going to be tough, because the Tea Party isn't going to like this one. Why? You must be new here. The big reason is that it includes a (long and expensive) pathway to citizenship, but if it wasn't that it would be something else. Many House Republicans will not support this bill unless it turns into comprehensive immigration deform.
What the Hoeven-Corker amendment makes clear is that Republicans want immigration reform, if for no other reason that they can't win national elections with their current level of Latino support. They could have just grumbled this bill into the ground. They aren't, which is heartening, because we could really use immigration reform.
Advice to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.): bring this bill up for a vote pronto. You have momentum. Use it or lose it. Getting a bill to President Obama's desk is going to take some special circumstances, and they may not last.