Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) said late Monday they would have voted “no” on a procedural vote for the upper chamber’s immigration bill if they had made it to the Hill in time.
That late-breaking news from the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) may dampen celebrations of the “Gang of Eight” bill’s progress; as the AJC noted, that means it is “unlikely” either will vote for the final bill.
The latest version of the legislation became official on Monday evening, passing the Senate by a 67-27 vote margin. The procedural vote was to make the amendment cluster–including the so-called “border surge” package from Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and John Hoeven (R-ND), as well as a series of handouts, kickbacks, and other amendments–all part of the official bill moving forward. Further, the vote cut off debate on the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is now taking that officially clustered bill, which totals just under 1,200 pages in length, and moving it closer to final passage from the Senate. A vote is expected later this week, by Thursday at the latest or Wednesday at the earliest. Gang of Eight member Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has stated throughout the last several months said the bill needs 70 Senate votes upon passage to matter in Washington’s bigger political picture. Schumer wants to be able to pressure House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to act on the bill, which he will likely not do without a large swath of bipartisan Senate support.
Earlier this week on the Senate floor, The Hill reported that Schumer remained adamant about the necessity for 70 votes. “We’re not there yet,” Schumer said of the target. “We’re climbing each day, but we’re not there yet. But I think we will get there.”
Schumer’s fellow Gang of Eight members Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) have also suggested a 70-vote target is necessary for this bill to survive in the House of Representatives. In his floor remarks this week, Schumer acknowledged McCain and Graham agreeing the 70-vote target is necessary. “There were others who thought I could help put together a proposal that would get 70 votes,” he said.
Bad weather kept six senators away from the vote on Tuesday, meaning many closely following this fight were unsure whether that 67 votes would have been more than 70 in the end. Chambliss and Isakson, both wildcards until now, were on a flight that was delayed landing in D.C. due to inclement weather. Both told the AJC they would have voted “no” had they made it into the Capitol in time.
Sens. Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Mike Lee (R-UT), both certain “no” votes, missed the vote as well. Only Sens. Mark Udall (D-CO) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who also both missed the vote, were expected to vote in the affirmative.
Thus, Schumer and the rest of the Gang of Eight would have had 69 votes at best, had every senator voted, missing their target by at least one vote. At final passage, that number could dip even closer to the 60 votes necessary to pass the Senate.
For instance, Slate’s Dave Weigel tweeted after the vote that Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) said he is considering voting against the final bill. Other Republicans who voted in favor of this procedure include: John Hoeven (R-ND), Bob Corker (R-TN), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John McCain (R-AZ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Jeff Chiesa (R-NJ), Dean Heller (R-NV), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). and Lamar Alexander (R-TN).
Of that group of Republicans, Alexander and Collins face re-election battles next year. Though they did get some kickbacks for their support for this repackaged bill, Murkowski and Heller could always turn against it at the last minute. Hatch could also turn on it if the pressure mounts on him, as could Kirk (though more unlikely with Kirk).
Graham also faces re-election next year but is fully supportive of this bill and will not, as a member of the Gang of Eight, change his position, in all likelihood.
In addition, some red-state Democrats could turn against the bill, though they were united in support for this procedural vote. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Mark Pryor (D-AR) have voted almost lock-step with conservative Republicans throughout the amendment process until Monday. Other red state Democrats like Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Mark Begich (D-AK) and Kay Hagan (D-NC) face re-election next year. Progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) also voiced opposition to parts of the bill in floor speeches over the past few weeks, but he voted in favor of Monday’s procedural move after a kickback he wanted was inserted in the form of a new stimulus program.
A senate GOP aide told Breitbart News this could be a closer final vote than what conventional wisdom in Washington seems to be. “Schumer needs at least 70 because he knows it he’ll have greatly reduced momentum and will meet stiff resistance in the House,” the aide said. “It will be seen a failure to get less than 70 given the establishment support for it, the huge money behind it, having Senator Rubio as the lead pitch man, and having Reid and Obama whipping the votes.
“70 or more votes also helps shield red state Democrats,” the aide continued. “The Pryors and Manchins have to be thinking: do I really want to risk ending my senate career to provide Schumer with the 68th or 69th vote to give amnesty to gang members and sex offenders?”
Though it will likely pass the Senate, lawmakers will fight for each and every vote, because the more that vote in favor, the more pressure proponents can put on Republican representatives to pass this bill or something close to it out of the House.
Boehner has pledged he would follow the Hastert Rule on immigration, meaning he would not bring up a bill that does not have the support of the majority of Republicans in the House onto the floor for a vote and pass it with largely Democratic votes. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who has indicated support for the Gang of Eight Senate bill, said he thinks Boehner might break his promise if the Gang of Eight bill passed the Senate with overwhelming support.
“Now the Speaker has said he wouldn’t do that [break the Hastert Rule], but I think with the strong passage of a Senate bill, and with enormous public pressure–including pressure from the mainstream GOP leaders outside the House–that he’ll be forced to take up the bill and I think that will be the best outcome,” Schiff said in a recent MSNBC appearance.