The Senate moved ahead on the immigration reform bill Tuesday with two heavily bipartisan votes. The second, which passed on an 84-15 vote, saw 30 Republicans join all 54 Democrats in support. (Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona, one of the bill’s sponsors, is a surefire “yes,” but missed both votes.)
The broad GOP support was a strongly positive sign for conservative immigration reformers.
“You saw a majority of the caucus wanted to proceed to the bill – that doesn’t mean they’re going to vote for it, but it does mean they are in play,” says Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina, one of the bipartisan “Gang of 8” who authored the Senate bill. “And one or two people who voted against cloture may come into play later on if we can improve the bill.”
The 15 ‘no’ votes highlighted those Republicans, led by long-time critics like Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) of Alabama and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) of Iowa, who are all but dead-set against the reform measure.
But despite a core of stalwart opponents, Republicans including Senators McConnell and Cornyn, the top two GOP Senate leaders, lent their assent to the bill, which majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada plans to see safely out of the chamber by month’s end. House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio recently said he expected the House to be ready to begin it’s own immigration debate in July.