Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wouldn't block the bipartisan immigration overhaul on Tuesday, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrik Leahy said he will hold off — "with a heavy heart" — on a controversial amendment offering green cards to spouses of gay couples, even as Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol came out against the bill, and 150 conservatives signed a letter demanding senators reject it. "I think the Gang of Eight has made a substantial contribution in moving the issue forward," McConnell said, saying he was "hopeful" a bill could pass. "The status quo is not good." But the path to passage is surprisingly clear.
The three Obama administration scandals could make immigration reform easier to pass, The Washington Post's Ezra Klein argues, because Republicans could use it to show they care about fixing problems as much as they care about holding hearings investigating the White House. Several key compromises have been made. The "gang of eight" has brought in Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch by agreeing to a mandate that 30 airports collect immigrants' biometric data to track when they exit the country, The New York Times' Ashley Parker reports. Two years after the bill passed, the 10 biggest airports would start collecting fingerprints. The next 20 airports would follow over six years. On Monday, the judiciary committee accepted South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham's amendment to end an immigrants' asylum status if they go back to the country they fled. And on Tuesday, the committee reached an agreement making it easier for employers to hire high-skilled workers — immediately almost doubling the cap on H1-B visas to 110,000, and eventually increasing it to 180,000. And the committee rejected Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's amendment to spike a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already here. The bill is expected to be sent to the Senate floor for full debate early next month, with Tuesday night's approval by the judiciary committee.
Update, 8:25 p.m. Eastern: In a statement, President Obama congratulated the committee on passing along the bill, calling the legislative process "open and inclusive." He was also realistic: "None of the Committee members got everything they wanted, and neither did I, but in the end, we all owe it to the American people to get the best possible result over the finish line."