As Republicans and Democrats bicker over playing politics with immigration, the math doesn’t quite add up for it to be possible to pass legislation in this senate either. The closest Congress came to any comprehensive immigration reform was in 2006 when the Senate passed a bipartisan plan with 62-36. (It died in the House.) That Senate vote was thanks to 22 Republicans — may of whom were later defeated or who now say they won’t support immigration today.
Based on that vote and changes that have come since, we did the math and it looks like there is are 56 votes for immigration. But with the political winds having shifted, a whole new crop of conservative Democrats and the midterm elections looming, those 56 votes are far from solid. Besides, 60 is the most important number for the Senate to even bring a bill to the floor.
The top Republican negotiators from the 2006 (and 2007) failed efforts Sen. Lindsey Graham and John McCain have signaled they have no interest in immigration this year. Sens. Larry Craig (R-ID), Bill Frist (R-TN), Mel Martinez (R-FL) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) have been replaced by conservative GOPers unlikely to support a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants that critics dub “amnesty.” Immigration champion Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) is gone, and President Obama is phoning Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) on the topic to try and win him over.Other Republican yes votes aren’t clearly there anymore. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a yes vote in 2006, said on Fox News Sunday this weekend there is no appetite for passing immigration this year. Will Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Dick Lugar (R-IN) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) really vote again to support the issue?
Of the Republican no votes, six were replaced by Democrats. Senate vote-counters had better keep an eye on those folks if they want to make this happen. And where do new Democratic Sens. Jim Webb (VA), Mark Warner (VA), Jon Tester (MT) and Mark Begich (AK) stand on immigration? That’s a key question to learn the potential for success if a new immigration effort is mounted in earnest.
Majority Leader Harry Reid said yesterday there are “only 59 of us,” and said he wants bipartisan legislation to reach the floor. Graham (R-SC) warned that any reform would fall apart without Republican support.
“I bet you everything I own, if you bring it up in this environment, not having done anything that is going to reassure the American public that we won’t have 20 million more [illegal immigrants], that you’re going to crash and burn, and that [if] immigration comes up this year, it is absolutely devastating to the future of this issue,” he said, according to The Washington Times.