Supporters of a massive bipartisan immigration measure in the Senate were struggling late Tuesday to reach an agreement with Republicans to hold votes on a few remaining amendments before approving the bill by Friday.
The impasse came as the Senate is scheduled to give final approval Wednesday to a Republican amendment that would double the size of the U.S. Border Patrol and require the construction of 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. The agreement also requires the deployment of new radar and unmanned aerial drones along the southern border.
Senators overwhelmingly agreed Monday night to proceed with consideration of the amendment, which was authored by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” that wrote the immigration bill and two Republican senators, Bob Corker (Tenn.) and John Hoeven (N.D.). The amendment is expected to help secure the votes of at least a dozen Republican senators on final passage of the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) warned late Tuesday that negotiations with Republicans opposed to the bill to allow votes on six to 20 more amendments had gone “backwards,” possibly delaying final passage.
“I can’t have more amendments unless I have all 100 senators agree,” he said earlier in the day.
In order to secure more GOP support for the bill, Democrats are hoping to hold a vote on an amendment by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) that would make changes to the government’s E-Verify program, which is used to track a job applicant’s immigration status. Portman’s proposal would require the Department of Homeland Security to make changes to the program to avoid fraud and identity theft.
Securing Portman’s vote could get the final tally on the Senate immigration bill closer to 70 — a figure that supporters believe might compel the Republican-controlled House to hold a vote on it.
“Without reforms to ensure E-Verify will work in the long run, Senator Portman will not support the bill,” his spokesman, Jeffrey Sadosky, said Tuesday.