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The Senate will hold a cloture vote on immigration reform Tuesday afternoon, in a vote that Republicans aren't expected to seriously try to filibuster. But as debate on the bill begins in the full Senate, Republicans are expected to introduce a long list of amendments weakening it, from ones requiring border security to be tightened to implausible levels as a precondition for the path to citizenship to one that would make the path to citizenship contingent on repeated votes by Congress—as if one isn't going to be hard enough—to amendments seeking to make the citizenship process more punitive.
Throughout the immigration reform fight, alas, there will be many more opportunities for the members of the gang of eight to have their egos stroked. The big question is if they can hold together while bringing a few Republicans along, without sacrificing too much of the core of the bill and losing Democratic votes. For instance, disagreement may be brewing over Sen. John Cornyn's amendment to:
... require several border security triggers — including a 90 percent apprehension rate of illegal crossings — to be met before undocumented immigrants could transition to lawful permanent residence, or green card, status. His amendment also would require putting into place a biometric exit system and a nationwide electronic-verification system, to ensure employers are not hiring workers who are in the country illegally.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has already called the measure a poison pill, but:
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a critical Republican member of the Gang, has been warm to Cornyn’s border security idea, although Rubio won’t commit one way or the other until he sees legislative language.
“I think Sen. Cornyn wants to improve the bill so he can vote for it. That’s not a poison pill,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), another Gang member, said Monday. “There are a lot of elements in what he’s talked about that we agree ought to be part of the bill.”
With Rubio already having threatened to walk away from immigration reform over border security, Cornyn's amendment looks like a real danger zone.
Ultimately, the question is if Republicans are more serious about passing a bill and maybe giving themselves a chance at Latino and Asian voters sometime in the next generation, or more serious about not drawing hard-right primary challenges. But the first step, today's cloture vote, seems likely to be passed.
President Obama will be speaking on immigration reform this morning, ahead of the vote.