Democrats Drop the Gay Rights Amendment That Might Have Killed the Immigration Bill

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 21 2013 7:37 PM

Democrats Drop the Gay Rights Amendment That Might Have Killed the Immigration Bill

Once Washington started to realize that immigration reform could happen, it considered the many poison pills that might kill it. Chief among them: An amendment that would allow same-sex couples to sponsor foreign partners for green cards. Republicans in the "Gang of Eight" were constantly asked whether they'd let the amendment in. They wouldn't. "I'll do everything in my power to see that it's not there," said John McCain. Adding in LGBT language would kill the bill.

The debate continued until roughly 7 p.m. tonight, when, during the Senate Judiciary Committee's mark-up of the bill, Chairman Pat Leahy was asked to let the amendment fall. Sen. Dick Durbin, the party's whip and a key member of the Gang, had been asked about the amendment earlier and stayed circumspect. "I'm gonna leave this to Sen. Leahy," he'd said. "In a few hours, you'll know what he's gonna do."

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A few hours passed, and Leahy was still talking up his amendment, as much as he could. Durbin announced that it "wasn't the time" to attach the amendment. Sen. Al Franken chimed in, comparing the need to kill the amendment to "Hobson's choice," but raising the specter of the whole bill collapsing.

That was the death knell. "With a heavy heart," Leahy let the amendment go.

"I want people who are at home listening to this debate understand that this debate isn't over," said Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. "It's happening in every state in our country."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.