New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez raised a few eyebrows today. On a broadcast of a Spanish language radio talk show, Menendez aknowledged that there were not 60 votes in the Senate to pass the immigration reform bill. Anything less than 60 would mean that opponents could prevent the bill from coming to the floor for a vote.
Menendez doesn’t sound very confident, But should he be?
We don’t currently have 60 votes identified in the Senate,” Menendez said on “Al Punto” with Jorge Ramos, according to an English-translated transcript provided by Univision. “We need to add more votes on the floor.”
Menendez added, “That means that the community in your state, in every state, should be contacting your state’s two U.S. senators saying that they want comprehensive immigration reform, that they are going to judge their political future based on this vote.”
Democrats hold 55 votes in the Senate, and there are four members of the Gang of Eight who are Republicans. But not all Democratic votes are assured – particularly those of senators who hail from more conservative states.
And while the bill’s proponents picked up one more Republican vote in the committee this week – from Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch – he said his vote is not guaranteed on the Senate floor unless lawmakers adopt his four amendments concerning tax and benefit provisions.
Still, Menendez said he was optimistic that he and the bill’s backers could find more “yes” votes during what is expected to be a long debate on the Senate floor over the immigration bill. The legislation passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 13-5 vote earlier this week.
“We are expecting that and working for that,” Menendez said. Other Gang of Eight members have said they are hoping for upwards of 70 votes ultimately in favor of the bill.
Republicans have said that the Senate bill is DOA in the House anyway, but they will have their own “Gang of Eight” version of immigration reform to deal with. The differences in the two bills may doom any idea of reform. House Republicans appear united on preventing any kind of “path to citizenship” from becoming law while some Senators have indicated that they would reject any House bill that doesn’t include it.
But it’s early yet. Give the leadership a chance to work on a few members and before you know it, 70 Senators will be voting for an immigration reform bill. And don’t be surprised if the GOP House passes some kind of reform that includes a path to citizenship — except it won’t be called that. It will be called something dorky like a “Gateway to the American Dream” or some such nonsense. The bottom line is that law breaking will be rewarded and those legal immigrants who have played by the rules will be shafted.