WASHINGTON — The beleaguered immigration bill makes a much-anticipated return to the Senate floor Tuesday, with some senators saying that a critical procedural vote will signal whether the legislation will be defeated or eventually clear the Senate.
If today’s showdown vote — on a motion to officially revive the bill — fails to procure the 60 votes necessary to pass, it will likely be the end of the road for comprehensive immigration reform this year. But if it passes, senators are predicting — some quite grudgingly — that it will herald Senate passage of the measure by week’s end. The bill then would go to the House for more debate.
The complicated measure, among other things, aims to improve border security, introduce employee verification procedures to make sure workers are in the U.S. legally and put an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country on a pathway to citizenship.
The bill’s opponents are forecasting its demise, claiming a steady erosion of support from both senators and the American public over the past few weeks. But some of the legislation’s biggest opponents did not seem confident Monday that they would be able to prevent the bill from moving forward.
The immigration bill was left for dead three weeks ago, when several Republicans and a group of about a dozen staunchly pro-labor Democrats voted down three motions to proceed, arguing that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had not given senators enough time to present amendments to the bill. After days of negotiations, Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and several of the original architects of the compromise legislation agreed to a limited list of about two dozen additional amendments, split between Republicans and Democrats, to be brought up when debate resumed.
That list includes several sweeping measures that are expected to be controversial.
Reid may allow votes on some of the more contentious amendments before moving to the showdown vote. If the Senate then decides to push ahead toward potential passage, Reid could decide to package the remaining amendments for a single vote to prevent senators from introducing more amendments.