Immigration Bill Passes the Senate, but the Coalition Is Weaker Than It Looks

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 27 2013 4:27 PM

68-32: Immigration Bill Passes the Senate. But the Coalition Is Weaker Than It Looks.

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Sen. Jerry Moran, pictured here at the 2011 Country Stampede in Manhattan, Kan., voted in favor of immigration reform Thursday before correcting himself.

Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images

The fight to stop the immigration bill in the Senate ended with a whimper. Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee who'd spent countless hours fighting the bill, had been bested a few times this week. He threw in the towel. "I have hope for a better bill coming out of conference committee," he said. He would give his debate time to the Democrats: "As far as I know, no one on my side wants it."

It was on to the vote, which took place with senators seated at their desk and rising to state their preference. (That hasn't happened since the party-line Obamacare vote of December 2009.) Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran said "aye," then corrected himself—smart move, for the chairman of the NRSC. And despite a warning from Vice President Biden (who was presiding), a crowd in the gallery celebrated the vote with shouts of "YES WE CAN." They were ushered out of the Capitol, in a nice little preview of what the House would do when the bill arrived.

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So the coalition fell two votes short of the 70 Chuck Schumer had wanted. There's a strange momentum to these things—the fact that nearly one in three Republicans endorsed the bill makes it "bipartisan," which provides an oomph Obamacare and the stimulus never had. But an immigration bill had passed the Senate in 2006, too. That vote was 62-36, with 21 Republican "ayes." Six of those "aye" senators—Bob Bennett, Sam Brownback, Larry Craig, Chuck Hagel, Arlen Specter and George Voinovich—have been replaced by senators who voted no today.

The 14 Republican ayes, with the years they're next up for election—you know, for all of you potential primary challengers.

Lamar Alexander (2014)
Kelly Ayotte (2016)
Jeff Chiesa (never—he's a temporary replacement)
Susan Collins (2014)
Bob Corker (2018)
Jeff Flake (2018)
Lindsey Graham (2014)
Orrin Hatch (2018)
Dean Heller (2018)
John Hoeven (2016)
Mark Kirk (2016)
John McCain (2016)
Lisa Murkowski (2016)
Marco Rubio (2016)

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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