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The Senate Votes for Cloture on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Early this afternoon, the Senate voted for cloture on the Gang of Eight’s comprehensive immigration reform bill, with 68 senators supporting and 32 in opposition (60 are needed to break a filibuster). Fourteen Republicans joined the 54-member Democratic caucus to move the legislation forward to a final vote, which will be held this afternoon at 4pm. This means, in essence, that immigration reform will pass the Senate. The only question is the margin.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer, one of the members of the Gang of Eight, says he wants 70 votes for passage, in order to pressure House Republicans into passing the bill as well. Two things complicate that calculus. First, a large number of House Republicans are still skeptical of the need for immigration reform, and doubt the president’s motives in pushing a bill. For example, Rep. Peter Roskam, the Republican deputy whip, accused the White House of wanting immigration reform to fail, in order to run against Republicans in next year’s elections.

But even if GOP leadership weren’t skeptical, there’s the fact of John Boehner’s commitment to the “Hastert rule,” an informal requirement that any legislation must first win support from a majority of the House majority. “For any legislation—including the conference report—to pass the House it's going to have to a be a bill that has the support of the majority of our members,” Boehner told reporters earlier today.

This gets to a core reality of the push for comprehensive immigration reform. There’s nothing about Republican support for the Senate bill that compels action from the House of Representatives. The House GOP will pass reform if its deemed necessary, and so far, that argument hasn’t been resolved.