Immigration bill gets 68 votes, now goes to Boehner’s desk

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The Senate’s pro-immigration coalition won a sweeping 68-vote victory in the Senate Thursday, but fell at least two votes short of the target set by the bill’s two leading advocates — Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer and GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham.

“I think we’re going to get plus 70 votes, I’ve never been more optimistic about it,” Graham told NBC June 16.

“We’re looking not to get 61 votes — obviously that’s the minimum. I’d like to get … a majority on both sides,” Schumer said during a April 25 breakfast arranged by The Christian Science Monitor. A majority on both sides would have gotten Schumer nearly 80 votes.

Republican Sen. John McCain also predicted a plus-70 vote. “I think that’s very doable,” he told USA Today.

The failure to reach 70 votes is a loss for the “Gang of Eight” legislators who crafted the bill because they must now persuade and pressure the Republican leaders in the House to take the next step, despite growing opposition from GOP legislators, activists and supporters.

That gives House Speaker John Boehner the power to bring the bill to the floor, or stop it dead in its tracks.

On Thursday morning, he told reporters that “we’re going to go home for the recess next week and listen to our constituents… when we get back, we’re going to … have a discussion about the way forward,” he said.

The Republican legislators who oppose the bill, and their affiliated groups and activists, will likely pressure Boehner to keep it off the House’s calendar for fear that some business-backed GOP legislators will ally with the Democratic caucus to approve the far-reaching legislation.

Some of the 32 GOP Senators who opposed the measure may press the House leadership to resist the heavy pressure from pro-immigration groups and allies to pass the bill.

The forecasts of reaching 70 votes were not necessarily sincere, as senators frequently exaggerate their support in the hope of building momentum. However, Senators also frequently understate their Senate allies, hoping to give their rivals a false sense of security.

Despite falling short of the 70-vote mark, the victory was an enormous shift from 2007, when President George W. Bush’s pro-amnesty bill won only 46 votes during an economic boom.

This time around, all Democrats rallied behind the bill, despite the nation’s high unemployment rates and provisions that would double the inflow of immigrants and guest workers.

The Democrats unified behind the plan, even through advocates claimed the bill had been made too tough on immigrants during the Senate’s closed-door negotiations.

They’re unified, say GOP staffers, because they’re hoping to gain political dominance as 46 million immigrants arrive over the next 20 years.

But in the short term, Senate Democrats now have to face constituents and voters, many of whom oppose the bill’s immigrant and guest-worker inflows.

“You have to go back home and sell it,” West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin told The Daily Caller.

Manchin then offered a pitch, similar to poll-tested script developed by business groups that support the bill.

“I think when you explain to people that these people are going to be 13 year pathway [to citizenship], they’ll be paying their taxes, they’re paying their fines, they’ll be paying into the system, learning English, being part of society,” Manchin said.

Pennsylvania Sen. Robert Casey voted against the immigration bill in 2007, but supported the more ambitious bill on Thursday. “I think people have a better sense of the economic impact on the positive side, and on the negative side, how broken the system is,” he told TheDC.

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin led the Democratic attack against the 2007 bill. However, “I am going to vote for final passage, simply because we’ve got do something, and I think most of this is pretty good stuff,” he told TheDC June 26.

Despite the concerns over unemployment, the bill has “more good than bad,” he said.

Complete roll call for the Gang of Eight immigration legislation (courtesy of U.S. Senate):

Alexander (R-TN), Yea
Ayotte (R-NH), Yea
Baldwin (D-WI), Yea
Barrasso (R-WY), Nay
Baucus (D-MT), Yea
Begich (D-AK), Yea
Bennet (D-CO), Yea
Blumenthal (D-CT), Yea
Blunt (R-MO), Nay
Boozman (R-AR), Nay
Boxer (D-CA), Yea
Brown (D-OH), Yea
Burr (R-NC), Nay
Cantwell (D-WA), Yea
Cardin (D-MD), Yea
Carper (D-DE), Yea
Casey (D-PA), Yea
Chambliss (R-GA), Nay
Chiesa (R-NJ), Yea
Coats (R-IN), Nay
Coburn (R-OK), Nay
Cochran (R-MS), Nay
Collins (R-ME), Yea
Coons (D-DE), Yea
Corker (R-TN), Yea
Cornyn (R-TX), Nay
Cowan (D-MA), Yea
Crapo (R-ID), Nay
Cruz (R-TX), Nay
Donnelly (D-IN), Yea
Durbin (D-IL), Yea
Enzi (R-WY), Nay
Feinstein (D-CA), Yea
Fischer (R-NE), Nay
Flake (R-AZ), Yea
Franken (D-MN), Yea
Gillibrand (D-NY), Yea
Graham (R-SC), Yea
Grassley (R-IA), Nay
Hagan (D-NC), Yea
Harkin (D-IA), Yea
Hatch (R-UT), Yea
Heinrich (D-NM), Yea
Heitkamp (D-ND), Yea
Heller (R-NV), Yea
Hirono (D-HI), Yea
Hoeven (R-ND), Yea
Inhofe (R-OK), Nay
Isakson (R-GA), Nay
Johanns (R-NE), Nay
Johnson (D-SD), Yea
Johnson (R-WI), Nay
Kaine (D-VA), Yea
King (I-ME), Yea
Kirk (R-IL), Yea
Klobuchar (D-MN), Yea
Landrieu (D-LA), Yea
Leahy (D-VT), Yea
Lee (R-UT), Nay
Levin (D-MI), Yea
Manchin (D-WV), Yea
McCain (R-AZ), Yea
McCaskill (D-MO), Yea
McConnell (R-KY), Nay
Menendez (D-NJ), Yea
Merkley (D-OR), Yea
Mikulski (D-MD), Yea
Moran (R-KS), Nay
Murkowski (R-AK), Yea
Murphy (D-CT), Yea
Murray (D-WA), Yea
Nelson (D-FL), Yea
Paul (R-KY), Nay
Portman (R-OH), Nay
Pryor (D-AR), Yea
Reed (D-RI), Yea
Reid (D-NV), Yea
Risch (R-ID), Nay
Roberts (R-KS), Nay
Rockefeller (D-WV), Yea
Rubio (R-FL), Yea
Sanders (I-VT), Yea
Schatz (D-HI), Yea
Schumer (D-NY), Yea
Scott (R-SC), Nay
Sessions (R-AL), Nay
Shaheen (D-NH), Yea
Shelby (R-AL), Nay
Stabenow (D-MI), Yea
Tester (D-MT), Yea
Thune (R-SD), Nay
Toomey (R-PA), Nay
Udall (D-CO), Yea
Udall (D-NM), Yea
Vitter (R-LA), Nay
Warner (D-VA), Yea
Warren (D-MA), Yea
Whitehouse (D-RI), Yea
Wicker (R-MS), Nay
Wyden (D-OR), Yea

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