Potential Deal on Border Security Could Boost Immigration Bill’s Outlook

BY Terence Burlij and Christina Bellantoni  June 20, 2013 at 9:05 AM EDT


The U.S.-Mexico border wall in Nogales, Arizona. Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

The Morning Line

The prospects for a decisive vote in favor of a Senate plan to overhaul the nation’s immigration system appeared to brighten in the past 24 hours with word that two Republican senators have closed in on an agreement with the Gang of Eight on a proposal to bolster the border security elements of the package.

The deal, negotiated by Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota, could provide the legislation the boost it needs to win 70 or more votes on final passage, which would increase pressure on House Republicans to take up the measure.

Politico’s Burgess Everett, Manu Raju and Carrie Budoff Brown report Corker and Hoeven have started to sell the compromise to fellow Republicans and that the reception has been “good.” They write:

The emerging deal would soften Republican requests for a strict requirement that 90 percent of illegal border crossers be apprehended to hit a “trigger” toward a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, but would provide an unprecedented increase in border security funding and officers and a guarantee on finishing the fence along the Southern border, sources said.

Ashley Parker of the New York Times notes that Corker and Hoeven worked with Democrats to address concerns about linking a pathway to citizenship with the 90 percent border security trigger:

According to aides with knowledge of the discussions, the Republicans agreed to make the 90 percent figure a goal rather than a requirement, in exchange for a detailed border security plan that lays out serious assurances of both manpower and resources at the southern border.

“Unprecedented deployment of boots on the ground and commitment to the fence,” explained an aide close to the talks, speaking anonymously to talk candidly about continuing private discussions.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican member of the Gang of Eight, said Wednesday in an interview with Fox News that the new border security provision could be ready as early as Thursday.

“What I can tell you is that I have Republican colleagues here in the Senate that have been working very hard based on the public input that people are getting,” Rubio said. “I know they’re still finalizing that and I’ll leave it to them to announce it because they’ve worked so hard on it. But let me just say that what I think you can expect to see tomorrow is a substantial improvement — a substantial improvement — in the border security parts of this bill.”

In a signal of the delicate political balance Rubio is attempting to strike, and a difficult pathway for the bill in the House, consider a tea party rally near the Capitol Wednesday organized by conservative GOP Rep. Steve King of Iowa. Reporters covering the event found angry activists using words like “RINO” and “traitor” to describe the Florida senator.

ABC News reported that rally attendees “loudly booed Rubio’s name when it was mentioned by several speakers, including Robert Rector, the co-author of a controversial Heritage Foundation report on the cost of the Senate bill. Rector accused the senator of not reading ‘his own bill.’”

And former Florida Rep. Allen West, a hero among tea party voters, said Wednesday he won’t rule out a primary challenge against Rubio in 2016.

While the issue of border security will likely continue to be the main focus of the debate going forward, Politico highlights the fact that many lawmakers also have parochial concerns they want addressed in the legislation.

The NewsHour is holding one-on-one discussions with lawmakers about how they’d like to see the measure shaped.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., told Ray Suarez Wednesday night that the border security amendments that have been defeated on the Senate floor over the last week are “just a delaying technique. “It’s hard to get stuff done in Congress,” he said.

He also hailed the Congressional Budget Office score we wrote about Wednesday showing the bill would cut the deficit. CBO reports “are truly independent and, quite frankly, often very unpredictable,” Kaine said. “[T]hat added a significant bit of data to the proponents and supporters of reform.”

Watch here or below:

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Simone Pathe contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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