Harry Reid: We could pass the Gang of Eight's immigration bill right now if we wanted to; Update: Should they?

He’s bluffing. I think. I hope?

Dude, I’m nervous:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill can pass the Senate in its current form, although he’s open to border security changes that don’t destroy the bill’s pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

“It’s a good bill that could pass the Senate if we voted on it today, tomorrow or next week. Just as it is,” Reid said.

As Reid spoke to reporters on Tuesday afternoon, Republican senators like John Hoeven (N.D.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.) were working with some members of the Gang of Eight to craft a way to strengthen the bill’s border security measures while also not turning off Democrats. Reid said he encourages that effort, but drew the line at adding tough “triggers” to the bill, as has been suggested by Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas).


Two questions: Is he right, and does it matter? As to the first — yeah, maybe. If he pulled the trigger and moved for cloture today, he probably has at least five Republican votes in McCain, Graham, Flake, Kelly Ayotte, and of course Marco Rubio, who’d suddenly face a very tough choice in whether to abandon his demands for more border security and accept the bill as is. Assuming all 54 Democrats vote yes, which they’d be under tremendous pressure to do from both Reid and the White House, that gives Reid 59. Anyone think Lisa Murkowski or Susan Collins wouldn’t round it off to an even 60 there? So yeah, Reid can probably break a filibuster, unless Rubio finally melts under all the heat he’s getting from the right lately. Chances of that are slim, though. It’s in his long-term political interest to stick with the bill, no matter how much abuse he takes in the near term.

But getting the bill through the Senate isn’t their problem. Getting it through the House is, and as Chuck Schumer’s insisted all along, to put heat on the House they need a strong showing from Republicans in the Senate in favor. Seventy votes is the goal, not 60. Is that doable? Increasingly it seems like … no, it isn’t:

Congressional Republicans say the opposition from their activist base to the Senate plan is only growing, making it easier for GOP senators to oppose the Senate bill — particularly if the border security provisions remain largely unchanged.

“If you listen to the number of calls, the emails that our offices are getting right now, the bombardment is pretty one-sided,” said South Dakota Sen. John Thune, No. 3 in GOP leadership. “That’s just the way it is.”

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who was once viewed as a gettable vote, said, “There’s no great groundswell of Republicans telling me to vote for this.”…

But move too far to the right, and the bipartisan coalition could shed Democratic support. Several senior Democratic aides said the alternative GOP border plan — as of late Tuesday afternoon — had little chance of winning backing from Democrats, saying the so-called triggers to achieve a pathway to citizenship are too onerous.


Paul’s quote there is key. Comprehensive reform polls well consistently, but most of the public isn’t passionate about it and, to the extent that they are, they’re very much in favor of more border security. The energy is all on the side of opponents — the sort of people who’ll turn out in force to vote in statewide primaries while low-information voters stay home. What Reid, Schumer, and Obama should be trying to do here is find a border-security amendment — Cornyn’s, Corker’s and Hoeven’s, or even something from Rubio — that’ll sacrifice Democratic votes in the name of winning Republican ones. That’s the only way to give the bill a fighting chance in the House. But they have a base to answer to as well, and the pro-amnesty lefty base really, really doesn’t want any meaningful border-security triggers in the bill. At a bare minimum, they want probationary legalization for illegals right away and some sort of weak border trigger for the path to citizenship to begin later. The stronger the triggers get, the more Democrats you lose — with no guarantee of being able to replace them with jittery Republicans in the Senate or the House. If I were a Democrat, I’d take virtually any deal the GOP needs to make this happen, knowing that the “we need to win Latinos!” feeling among Republican leaders will inevitably lead them to soften the bill’s legalization provisions in the future when conservatives are paying less attention. But evidently they’re not prepared to do that (yet?). For once, the GOP might not be the stupid party here.


Speaking of dwindling support for reform, here’s Rand Paul basically walking away from the bill by insisting that he wants even the first initial probationary legalization granted to illegals to come after the border is secured — an absolute dealbreaker for Democrats and the Gang of Eight, Rubio included. That’s big news because Paul’s vote was, kinda sorta, in play through all of this. As in virtually all his policy maneuverings, he’s eager to impress libertarians by supporting reform of some kind but leery of alienating conservatives by supporting a bill they can’t stand for its weakness on the border. As pressure on the right against Rubio’s bill has built, Paul’s begun inching away from it until now, apparently, he’s become a lost cause. If he voted yes, it’d give cover to tea partiers and to Republicans to his left who are worried about primary challenges from the base to vote yes along with him. Without Paul, Rubio’s job just got harder. Click the image to watch.


Update: Good question from Mickey Kaus.

If they think they bill’s doomed in the House, they might as well vote now and try to embarrass Rubio with its failure in the Senate so that he can’t claim any sort of legislative achievement in 2016. Which raises another question: Would it be better for the GOP to help pass it in the Senate, knowing that the House will torpedo it? Then you get the best of both worlds — proof for Latino voters that there’s a significant constituency in the GOP willing to vote for this thing but no bill at the end of the day. Problem is, there’s no way to ensure that the House won’t turn around and pass something ineffective too. A House veto is probably on balance, but not assured.


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