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Immigration Bill Has Long Road Ahead

Immigration reform supporters leave the Senate chamber in the Capitol after watching passage of the Senate immigration reform bill on Thursday. Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

The Morning Line

The next chapter in the immigration debate won’t be so easy.

Senators sat in their seats on the floor Thursday, quietly one by one casting votes on a sweeping measure to overhaul the nation’s immigration system. The plan includes several compromises on border security and employment practices and a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the United States.

It marked the first time one chamber has passed a major change to the immigration system in nearly three decades, and a milestone in a push for reform that lost all its energy after a bipartisan plan fizzled in 2007 despite backing from then-President George W. Bush.

There was little drama, and the vote came in broad daylight, a full day before lawmakers get out of town for a holiday recess and easily meeting a deadline set by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The chamber approved the bill 68 to 32, sending a bill relatively similar to what was revealed by the bipartisan Gang of Eight 72 days ago to the House, where it faces an uncertain future. The 68 “yes” votes included all 52 Democrats, two independents and 14 Republicans.

Spectators gathered in the galleries above the floor even briefly abided by the standard warning that they aren’t allowed to cause a fuss. Vice President Joe Biden read the final tally and it was silent, for a moment. Then the crowd erupted in “Yes we can!” and he had to remind them again of rules they do not demonstrate inside the chamber.

President Barack Obama hailed the legislation’s passage as a “critical step” and thanked Democratic leadership and the Gang of Eight.

“The bipartisan bill that passed today was a compromise. By definition, nobody got everything they wanted. Not Democrats. Not Republicans. Not me. But the Senate bill is consistent with the key principles for commonsense reform that I – and many others – have repeatedly laid out,” Mr. Obama said.

“Today, the Senate did its job. It’s now up to the House to do the same.”

The president predicted that opponents “will try their hardest to pull this bipartisan effort apart so they can stop commonsense reform from becoming a reality,” but the reactions coming from a shrinking opposition seemed muted.

Groups from Crossroads GPS, which spent millions to try and defeat Mr. Obama last fall, to the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO issued supportive statements, with few organizations throwing down any gauntlets.

“Today’s vote is an important first step toward meaningful immigration reform, but it must not be the last,” Steven Law, president and CEO of Crossroads GPS, said in a statement. He said it is “up to the House to ensure the final bill takes a more balanced approach to reform,” but his critique of the plan was tepid.

Politics, of course, won’t be far behind. The fight in the House has many facets, and comes as people gear up for the 2014 midterm elections where Democrats will once again attempt to reclaim control of the majority.

Reid Wilson writes in the National Journal that backers of the comprehensive plan dramatically outspent opponents this spring, providing “cover to key Democrats and Republicans who voted in favor of the bill.” From his story:

The five groups that spent significant amounts of money on advertising have dropped a total of $5.27 million into their television and radio campaigns since April, the data show. The four big groups opposing the bill spent a total of $1.94 million over the same timeframe.

The Democratic group American Bridge 21st Century released a snarky report through their Bridge Project that “highlights the most extreme and offensive views held by Republicans.” The idea, organizers said, is to put pressure on lawmakers in the House.

And the president’s Organizing for Action campaign spinoff is pulling together events across the country to call on the House “to not stand in the way of this movement.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said he will meet with the GOP Conference June 10 to discuss the path forward for immigration. Top Republican aides hinted things are about to slow down, with the House setting no timeline for action on its own version of an immigration plan.

Amy Walter has the Republicans to watch in her column for the Cook Political Report.

The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reported that Republicans were planning to use the support of some Democrats against them in next year’s midterms. The story included a quote from National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brad Dayspring, who said some Senate Democrats were putting their re-election prospects at risk by supporting the bill.

Asked about the statement following Thursday’s vote, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a member of the bipartisan group that crafted the legislation, warned his fellow Republicans to consider the party’s electoral defeats in 2008 and 2012 and urged them to “re-evaluate what they are saying.”

The NewsHour led Thursday’s show with a look at the historic day.

Watch Ray Suarez’s report here or below:


Ray also hosted a Google hangout with mixed-status families that Cindy Huang profiled for a multimedia project earlier this year.



And follow developments on our immigration page. The Morning Line will keep an eye on Congress, the president and national politics Monday through Wednesday next week, and then we’ll take a brief holiday of our own.


On the NewsHour Thursday, we examined the reverberations of Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act and what it means for same-sex couples going forward.

Jeffrey Brown reported on what the president had to say about marriage and the complicated next steps for a federal government looking at a patchwork of states with different laws on the books. Then he had Winnie Stachelberg of the Center for American Progress walk through the different scenarios of benefits same-sex couples can now get, and outline the continuing confusion for people living in states where gay marriage is illegal.

Jeff then turned to get two takes, from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., who supports efforts in Congress to ban gay marriage at the federal level.

Schneiderman said he sees a major shift in thinking that will lead to a snowball effect of states joining his to legalize same-sex marriage.

“And I have to say that the politics were moving toward equality, the same way the politics of integration, an end to racial discrimination had been moving towards equality,” he said.

Hartzler saw it differently.

“I don’t think that the story is totally told on this at all,” she said, calling marriage a “special institution that sets up the best place to raise children in this society.”

“[T]hat’s why government is in the marriage business. It’s not because it cares about romance. It’s because it cares about the rights of children and promoting an environment that is best for their upbringing,” she said.

Watch here or below:



  • A compromise to halt the rise of student loan interest rates has so far eluded the Senate: rates will double on Monday, but Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, maintained they could restore the 3.4 percent rate after the July 4th recess, while Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., circulated a competing proposal to tie rates to the markets.
  • Five-term Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif., announced Thursday he will retire at the end of this term. “I have decided that I will not seek re-election to represent California’s 45th Congressional district in 2014,” Campbell, a former state lawmaker and businessman from conservative Orange County, said in a statement. “At the end of this term, I will have spent 14 years serving in full-time, elected politics. I am not nor did I ever intend to be a career politician. I am ready to begin a new chapter in my life.”
  • Lawmakers from both parties expressed outrage Thursday at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing looking at the targeting of political groups by the Internal Revenue Service.
  • The Senate confirmed now-former Charlotte mayor Anthony Foxx as Transportation Secretary with a 100-0 vote. Here’s the Charlotte Observer’s write-through.
  • Matt Cooper profiles Sen. Mark Kirk for the National Journal, looking at the Illinois Republican’s stepped-up role even after surviving a stroke.
  • The president urged Americans to get tested for HIV as his administration backed a national effort to detect the virus early.
  • Democratic National Committee Executive Director Patrick Gaspard was chosen to be the new ambassador to South Africa.
  • Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell declined to comment on the Rolex watch he received as a gift from a campaign donor.
  • The Associated Press has the latest in Texas’ battle over abortion restrictions: Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday said that filibuster leader state Sen. Wendy Davis’ rise from a tough upbringing to Harvard Law graduate should have taught her the value of each human life.
  • New York Times columnist and NewsHour regular David Brooks suggests in his latest column that immigration reform would speed us up to a New America we’re already heading toward — one that accelerates “economic dynamism” and stunts the “old ethnic-racial order.”
  • The Hill’s Eric Wasson notes that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., moved Thursday to increase pressure on Republicans to form a budget conference by appointing 17 members to the non-existent panel.
  • National Review wins the day’s headlines with: “Tennessee Man Accused of Trying to Blackmail Mitt Romney … for Bitcoins.”
  • Because you really need to know, here are all the ways to take care of a needed bathroom break when you filibuster.

NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

  • Christina wrote about why she played in the Congressional Women’s Softball Game. Don’t miss the photos by Jeff Malet.
  • Gwen Ifill examines equality as an evolving ideal in her blog this week, after this “head-snapping” week at the Supreme Court.
  • Margaret Warner spoke with Todd Moss of the Center for Global Development and Sarah Pray of the Open Society Foundation to grade the Obama administration’s track record on Africa, and explore how that continent has fit into American foreign policy.
  • Think the economy’s rough for young folks? What about for young artists? Paul Solman caught up with Julliard students trying to make it in the real world, and in the process, learned how to conduct.
  • And Cindy Huang examined the popularity of service organizations among young people in today’s labor market.
  • Ray Suarez spoke with Margo Wootan from the Center for Science in the Public Interest about the USDA’s regulation of snack food in schools, scheduled to take effect next year.
  • In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA, our resident Social Security expert explains how married same-sex couples can now enjoy Social Security’s benefits for married folks.













Meena Ganesan, Katelyn Polantz and 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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