Senate immigration vote count: How close a DACA deal is to passing


When a bipartisan group of senators led by Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Angus King (I-ME) announced their own proposed immigration compromise Wednesday night, there was one number that instantly set their idea apart from all the others: eight.

That is, eight Republican senators have already signed on to back the Rounds-King amendment — a number that, should all 49 Democrats also back the deal, would put it just three votes short of the 60 necessary to pass it under Senate rules. So it’s likely the closest to passing of any proposal so far.

Now, even if the Rounds deal does manage to pass the Senate, it faces enormous obstacles before it can become law. Several Trump administration officials have harshly criticized the deal, and the White House released a statement saying Trump’s advisors would recommend he veto it (though the president himself hasn’t spoken out on it just yet). And Speaker Paul Ryan has said the House of Representatives won’t take up an immigration bill unless Trump says he supports it.

The nearer-term problem is that even some Senate Republicans who’d shown some inklings of moderation on immigration — like Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and John Hoeven (R-ND) — are already opposing Rounds’s deal. Others, like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), haven’t sounded enthusiastic. So three more Senate GOP supporters could be quite hard to come by.

As for Democrats, defections from the right seem unlikely, since two of the party’s most conservative senators — Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) — have signed on to Rounds’s proposal. However, defections from more progressive Democrats do seem possible, since several immigration activist groups have criticized the deal.

So unanimous Democratic backing is far from certain. Particularly if it’s clear the proposal is doomed anyway, some Democrats might feel freed up to vote against it from the left. Here, then, is where the vote count stands now on the immigration proposal with the most bipartisan support. (The vote will likely be held Thursday afternoon.)

Republicans supporting Rounds-King (at least 11 are needed to approve it)

This is the most important category, since many believe that if 11 Republican votes in favor of the deal were to materialize, all 49 Democrats would likely join them, because that would lead to 60 votes. But right now, there are only eight public GOP supporters of the deal in the Senate. They are:

  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
  • Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
  • Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO)
  • Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
  • Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
  • Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD)

Republicans whose voting status is unclear

Beyond those eight, there are a few more Republican senators with histories suggesting moderate inclinations on immigration. But so far, few of them have seemed particularly enthusiastic about the Rounds deal — an ominous sign.

  • Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV): He supported the bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill in 2013 and represents a Democratic-leaning state with a large Hispanic population. Yet he’s also dealing with a conservative challenger in his primary, which will take place in June, so he may be hesitant to anger the GOP base.
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL): He helped write the 2013 Senate bill, but has lately signaled he doesn’t want to back something conservatives don’t support.
  • Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT): He sponsored the first DREAM Act years ago, but he’s been closely aligned with Trump this year and has appeared to be focusing on Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) more conservative bill.

In addition, there’s the complicating factor that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will almost surely miss the vote, unless he’s secretly on his way to the Capitol right now. McCain is a longtime supporter of immigration reform, but has been absent from Washington so far this year, getting treatment for brain cancer.

Republicans who had seemed potentially gettable, but are voting no

Even more ominously for the Rounds deal, some GOP senators with dealmaking inclinations, or who have been involved in immigration reform efforts, have already confirmed they’ll vote against the Rounds deal. (Some of them even are sympathetic to it, but insist that a Senate bill that can’t get the support of the vast majority of Republicans or the president will just lead to a dead end.)

  • Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said through a spokesperson that he planned to oppose Rounds’s deal.
  • Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), who supported the 2013 bill and been involved in some bipartisan discussions, said Thursday that he opposed this deal, according to Vox’s Dylan Scott.
  • Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), who has been involved in bipartisan immigration negotiations, tweeted that the Rounds deal “fails to adequately secure the border and improve our nation’s immigration system.”
  • Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) praised the Rounds compromise as “well-intentioned” but not something “that can become law,” and has backed Grassley’s more conservative proposal instead.

Democrats are more likely to defect if it’s clear the proposal is doomed

Finally, there’s the question of what Democrats will do, particularly in the wake of criticism from activists that the deal concedes too much to President Trump on border security and internal enforcement.

If it looks like the Rounds compromise can get enough Republican votes to actually pass, there will be pressure on Democrats to fall behind it so that something will get through the Senate — which would then put the pressure on the House and President Trump to compromise.

No Senate Democrats seem to have said they’ll vote against the Rounds compromise so far. But if enough Republicans confirm they’re against it to sink it, some Democrats might want to oppose the bill, especially from the left.

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