‘Gang of Eight’ comprehensive immigration reform bill approved by U.S. Senate

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

This afternoon the U.S. Senate passed the “Gang of Eight” comprehensive immigration reform bill. Steve Benen reports, Senate approves comprehensive immigration reform, 68 to 32:

Following months of bipartisan negotiations, the U.S. Senate easily
approved landmark immigration legislation with a 68-to-32 vote. In
recognition of the seriousness with which Senate leaders took the issue,
members took the unusual step of voting from their desks.

In the
end, 14 Senate Republicans joined Senate Democrats in support of the
proposal. Despite the so-called “border surge” and other provisions
secured by GOP senators, 32 of the 46 Senate Republicans — about 70% of
the caucus — still voted against the bill
. (In 2006, 21 GOP senators voted for comprehensive immigration reform, suggesting, despite electoral pressures, the party is slowly becoming more hostile on the issue, not less.)

Immediately
after the Gang of Eight’s bill was approved, Dream Act kids in the
Senate gallery could be heard chanting, “Yes we can.”

The reform
bill now heads to the House where its prospects are very much in doubt.
While it’s true that there are many House Republicans who privately hope
the legislation passes — even if they’re not willing to vote for it —
it’s also true that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) isn’t leaving himself a lot of wiggle room [invoking the “Hastert Rule,” a majority of the majority.]

As of two weeks ago, Boehner had left the door wide open. “It’s not
about what I want. It’s about what the House wants,” the Speaker said of the bipartisan reform bill, adding, “We’re gonna let the House work its will.”

Boehner isn’t saying that anymore. On the contrary, even if most of the House supports the Senate bill, he won’t let the House “work its will”; he says he’ll only pursue legislation most of his radicalized caucus is willing to tolerate.

Even
on the conference report, Boehner is narrowing his focus. Last week, it
seemed plausible to think House Republicans would pass a right-wing
immigration alternative; the bill would go to conference; and the
Speaker would bring the resulting compromise bill to the floor, letting
the chips fall where they may.

But as of this morning, Boehner isn’t even willing to do that — if House Republicans don’t like the Senate bill, it’s dead, and if House Republicans don’t like a conference bill, it’s dead, too.

I’ve talked to several Capitol Hill sources today, each of whom have
said roughly the same thing: “Don’t take Boehner’s words at face value.
He changes his mind, he changes direction, and he backs down from
threats.”

This is, to be sure, a fair assessment of his last three
years as Speaker. But it’s also true that Boehner is leaving himself
very little room to work on finding a solution, and he freely admits he
has no intention of trying to lead anyone anywhere when it comes to
immigration policy.

Looking ahead, the pressure on the House will
be intense. We are, after all, talking about a popular bipartisan bill,
which reduces the deficit, boosts the economy, improves the finances of
the Social Security and Medicare systems, and help private-sector
employers.

But all of this is counteracted by House Republicans’ propensity for post-policy nihilism.

While your Congress critters are back home in their districts for the July 4th break, you should bring pressure to bear on them to get this bill done.

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