Immigration Reform in a Republican-Controlled Senate, Pt. 2

The numbers count of any likely GOP Senate majority in the new Congress suggests that real immigration reform is by no means a forgone conclusion. Indeed, it could be rather iffy.

The ratio of Democrats to Republicans is important, as is control of the Senate. And the actual composition of the crucial Senate committees matters as well, and that certainly includes the Senate Judiciary that has primary (but shared) jurisdiction over immigration legislation.

As it stands now, of the eight Republican members of the Judiciary Committee, two were original members of the 2013 “Gang of Eight.” They would be Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.). One other Republican member of that committee voted to send the 2013 bill out of committee and voted to pass it on the Senate floor (Orrin Hatch R-Utah).

Currently the partisan split on the Judiciary Committee is 10 Democrats and 8 Republicans. Since the Republicans need at least six Senate seats to take control, the current 10-8 split in favor of Democrats would be changed by the loss of several Democratic members and the addition of several new Republican members. Exact minority-majority ratios on major standing committees are determined through negotiation, although, according to the Congressional Research Service, “Committee ratios usually parallel the overall party ratio in the Senate, with each party occupying a percentage of seats on all committees consistent with the percentage of seats it has in the Senate.”

Assume for the sake of analysis, that the current 10-8 ratio is reversed; that is that a new Republican controlled Judiciary Committee would consist of 10 Republicans and 8 Democrats. We can legitimately assume that the all 8 Democrats, especially including senior Committee member Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), would push hard for another 2013-like, massive “comprehensive” bill. We can further assume that the three Republicans that voted for that kind of bill in 2013 might well be likely to do so again.

By my count, that is 8 Democrats plus 3 Republicans, or 11 of the 18 members of the committee. That number does not take into account the views of the other two new Republican members (should the GOP gain control).

What of the larger Senate vote should a 2013-type bill be voted out of the Judiciary Committee?

The 2013 Senate’s immigration bill passed by a 68-32 vote, 14 Republicans voting with all the Democrats and both independents. As noted, one of those votes is no long available, since Jeffrey Chiesa (R-N.J.) has been replaced by Democrat Cory Booker. It is also unclear whether Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) would vote “yes” – he was one of the original Gang of 8 but has since seemingly changed his mind, maybe.

So that means twelve Republican votes remain potentially available should the Democrats try to guide a 2015 version of their 2013 bill through a Republican-controlled Senate.

Assuming a 51-47 Senate split, and further assuming the same 12 Republican votes are available for any Democratic-like immigration bill, that would be 47+12= 59, one vote short of the 60 needed to invoke closure. Add independents Bernie Sanders and Angus King and you have more than the votes needed to invoke closure.

No real help for immigration reform in these numbers either.

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