WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans are split over the immigration bill steaming toward approval at week’s end, a divide that renders the ultimate fate of White House-backed legislation unpredictable in the House and complicates the party’s ability to broaden its appeal among Hispanic voters.
To some Republicans, the strength of Senate GOP support for the bill is all but irrelevant to its prospects in the House. Conservatives there hold a majority and generally oppose a core provision in the Senate measure, a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the United States illegally.
Any such impact is “greatly overrated,” said Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, who previously served as chief vote counter for House Republicans.
But Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., offered a different view. A Senate vote on Monday to toughen border security with thousands of new agents and billions of dollars in technology “obviously makes final legislation more likely,” the party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee said on CBS.
One prominent Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, also says House sentiment can be changed, particularly through the addition of strong border security measures of the kind that resulted from negotiations with previously uncommitted Republicans.
“I believe a large bipartisan vote will wake up our colleagues ... in the House,” Schumer said shortly before the Senate inserted a requirement for 20,000 new Border Patrol agents and a total of 700 miles of fencing along the border with Mexico.
“Hopefully, as congressmen look how their senators voted, they will be influenced by it.”
In the key Senate showdown so far, 15 Republicans voted to advance the legislation that toughens border security at the same time it creates a chance at citizenship for 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally. Another 27 voted to keep the bill bottled up.
Republicans who voted to block the legislation generally did so after saying it would not deliver on its promise of operational control of the border.
A political pattern emerged, as well.
Among Republicans who are seeking a new term next year and as a result face the risk of a primary challenge, only three voted with supporters of the measure. Eight did not, a group that includes the party’s two top leaders in the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and John Cornyn of Texas, as well as Sessions, who has been one of the bill’s principal opponents across three weeks of debate.