Immigration deal ready for roll out

The "Gang of Eight" have done their work and are putting the finishing touches on a thousand plus page immigration reform bill that they would like to unveil on Thursday, but may be forced to wait a week while "legislative language" (language that obscures what's really in the bill) is added.


A Senate aide told POLITICO: "The senators had a good discussion with [Judiciary Committee] Chairman [Patrick] Leahy this afternoon. We are optimistic that we will be able to introduce legislation soon. Chairman Leahy has agreed to hold a hearing as soon as possible after the legislation is introduced, and has promised to have unlimited debate and amendments during the committee markup.

"Assuming Republican members push for as much time as possible, the committee debate will last through the next recess, giving plenty of time for public debate and review," the aide added.

The Senate will return May 6 after a break for the last week of April.

Leahy and the Gang of Eight decided to hold a hearing next Wednesday on the bill, according to two Senate aides. The timing of the hearing is meant to serve as a backstop, forcing the senators to release the bill language by then.

The senators are aiming to make an announcement Thursday, but because they want to release an actual bill and are waiting for legislative language from the Senate Office of Legislative Counsel, they may have to push the release to next week, Senate aides said.

The fate of the immigration bill rests largely with Speaker John Boehner. While reform will probably pass the Senate, it is the GOP House where the issue will be decided.

Boehner does not have to bring the bill to the floor; he has plenty of support to prevent that. But if he does bring it to the floor - and he has indicated that he wants to -the chances are 50/50 that it will pass in some form. There may already be enough Republican support for immigration reform in the House which, when added to the Democratic total, would mean a majority. But there may be certain "poison pills" like an unacceptable pathway to citizenship or a failure to address border security that may derail the effort.

Boehner's dilemma: If he brings the bill to the floor, he angers the right. If he doesn't, he angers Hispanics. The key will be what kind of "pathway to citizenship" for illegals comes out of the Senate. Even some GOP House members who support some kind of immigration reform would oppose most of the ideas advanced so far for a pathway to citizenship.

It will be a delicate balancing act for Boehner and it is by no means certain that reform will get an up or down vote in the House.