Democrats compromised from the original Gang of Eight bill to get as many votes as possible for immigration reform in the Senate. That turned out, in the final vote this afternoon, to be 68 votes.
I don’t agree with those who believe that 70 (or 68) votes will be more threatening to the House than the minimal 60 votes needed to get through the Senate over the Republican filibuster. Mainstream conservative members of the House are worried about getting attacked in primaries from anti-immigration activists; none of them is likely to believe that an increased ability to call the bill “bipartisan” will be of any help in that circumstance.
However, that doesn’t mean that the compromises were necessarily wasted.
The key here is that even though this 68 won’t pressure the House to do anything, the same things that got 14 Republican senators to support the bill are the things that may get some House conservatives to support it.
Normally, it would make sense for the Democratic Senate to pass a more liberal bill, the Republican House to pass a more conservative bill, and then the two chambers to cut a deal somewhere in the middle. But that probably won’t happen here, since the dysfunctional House Republicans probably aren’t capable of getting a bill to conference — and, after all, quite a few of them don’t want a bill at all. So the real bargaining has to happen in the Senate, as it did on the fiscal cliff and, well, any other substantive bill during this Congress.
What we don’t know going forward is whether there are enough House Republicans who want a bill to pass (even if they would vote against it) to get John Boehner to pass a bill with mostly Democratic votes. What is very likely, however, is that the 68-vote version of the Senate bill is likely to satisfy the House Republicans who were open to a bill in the first place. And that’s all that the Senate can do. Now, we’ll wait to see if it’s enough.