In what may be a peek at the degree of support the Gang of Eight can eventually muster, the Senate invoked cloture with a 84-15 vote to begin debate on an immigration reform bill. All 15 were Republicans. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) voted for cloture.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) sounded cautiously optimistic: “I think today’s vote is a good sign. It shows there’s a strong bipartisan support for solving our immigration problem. At the end of the day I think it’s all going to hinge on whether we can secure the border and have real security measures to ensure that this never happens again in the future.”
Generally, more lawmakers are willing to vote for cloture ( “just a vote to debate it”) than for a bill on the merits. In this case, however, some of the GOP no votes might be won over even if a few are lost in the votes on the merits. That is because the increased border security measures haven’t yet been adopted. I don’t expect GOP Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Ted Cruz (Texas) or Jeff Sessions (Ala.) to vote for any bill, but other Republican senators who voted against cloture (e.g. Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk) may be won over with enhanced border security measures.
The vote is enlightening however. We are seeing those who want a better bill separated from those who oppose any increase in immigration. It is revealing that in his Senate race, Cruz, for example, answered yes to the question on a survey by NumbersUSA (an extreme anti-immigrant outfit) whether we should even reduce legal immigration. But that staunch anti-immigration reform sentiment we learned today is a small minority of Republicans.
I have said from the get go — citing public polling and discussions with Capitol Hill offices — that opposition to any immigration reform is exaggerated because of the volume of the right’s anti-immigrant sect and because the MSM like to dwell on GOP extremism. We got a whiff today that at least among senators, who must generally cater to a cross section of voters, the anti-immigration reform voices are disproportionately represented on mainstream and conservative blogs, radio and TV.
It wouldn’t be the first time radio talk show hosts and ambitious demagogues exaggerated their own importance and the degree to which they reflect what “Republicans believe.”