On Friday, as Congress was preparing for a week-long recess, NJ Sen. Bob Menendez said supporters of the Senate Amnesty bill were short the 60 votes they needed for passage. The next two weeks are critical for both opponents and backers of the Gang of 8 legislation in the Senate. While the media has treated passage of the Senate bill as a foregone conclusion, opposition is growing. Menendez’s remarks Friday are intended to galvanize supporters of amnesty into action.
The Democrats hold 55 seats in the Senate. Including the 4 GOP negotiators on the amnesty bill would presumably leave supporters just one vote short of overcoming a possible filibuster. Menendez’s comment suggests that not all Democrat Senators are assured of supporting the immigration bill.
This week, two events gave new optimism to opponents of the bill. Early in the week, a broad coalition of conservative and tea party organizations announced their opposition to the Senate bill. The coalition promised to engage grass roots activists to defeat the Senate bill. Late in the week, meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team announced that the House would do its own work to reform the immigration system and wouldn’t consider a bill passed by the Senate.
Importantly, Boehner was joined in his statement by VA Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Goodlatte’s committee will take the lead role on crafting immigration reform in the House. He is expected to move several individual pieces of legislation addressing the issue. Related talks on a comprehensive bill to reform immigration by a House version of the Senate’s gang have stalled.
When the Senate returns on June 3rd, it will resume work on a Farm Bill. It will likely take up immigration the following week. Momentum has moved slightly against the Senate amnesty bill. Menendez is hoping to mobilize supporters of amnesty to reverse this. Gang members have publicly stated they hope for 70 or more votes in support of the amnesty bill. Menendez is hoping to scare activists enough to help make that happen.