(WASHINGTON) — An immigration reform bill in the Senate now has crucial Republican support after senators struck a deal centered on border security last week.
But whether the sweeping legislative package can pass the more conservative House of Representatives is another question.
Democrats insist that the bill include a path to citizenship for the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, something that will be hard to swallow for the border hawks in the House.
But if conservatives oppose citizenship, the coalition supporting reform will push back, according to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), one of the legislators that drafted the bill. The senator spoke to Univision’s Jorge Ramos in an interview that aired Sunday on the news show Al Punto.
“If the House resists, I think we’ll see a day like we did in the civil rights movement,” Schumer said. “I think we’ll see two million people on the mall in Washington, D.C., and on the stage will not just be liberal Democrats, they will be the business leaders, the agricultural leaders, the cardinals from the Catholic Church, the leaders of the evangelical churches, all saying this is the right thing to do.”
“And they will have to pass it,” Schumer continued.
The fate of the bill in the House largely depends on Republican leadership, notably Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio).
The Speaker typically will only bring a bill to the floor of the House if it has the majority support of his party, and that’s unlikely to happen with this immigration package.
So he would have to break his own informal rule to let the House consider the Senate plan. Comments he made this week indicated he doesn’t seem likely to do that.
“I don’t see any way of bringing an immigration bill to the floor that doesn’t have the majority support of Republicans,” Boehner told reporters at a press conference on Capitol Hill.
But as Schumer pointed out in his interview with Univision, Boehner has bluffed before, saying he wouldn’t allow a bill to reach the floor of the House but then reversing his position.
“He’s said that in the past on other bills and then when he felt the pressure, he changed his mind,” Schumer said.
Schumer cited an aide package for Tropical Storm Sandy, which Boehner brought to the floor for a vote without support from the majority of Republicans. The aid package passed in the House with backing from most Democrats but less than a quarter of Republicans.
Still, that was enough Republican backing to get the bill passed, and the same thing could be possible with immigration reform.
Of course, the immigration package still needs to get through the Senate. But the odds of passing that House look promising after more Republicans joined the effort this past week.
In addition to Schumer, Univision’s Jorge Ramos spoke with five members of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” that sponsored the immigration legislation, including one of the Republicans in the group, Sen. Jeff Flake (Arizona).
Flake has recently been under scrutiny after his son was found to have posted racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic message on websites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. In addition to using the N-word and a homophobic slur, he referred to Mexicans as “scum of the Earth.”
The senator has since apologized for his son, but he answered more questions about his son’s attitudes in his interview with Jorge Ramos.
“Unfortunately, when kids talk on the Internet sometimes they say things that they wouldn’t otherwise,” Flake said. “But I can assure you that those words have never been uttered around our house.”
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