Late last night, a group of Republicans Senators teamed up with Democrats to pass an important amendment to the immigration reform bill, but that still might not be enough to save the larger package of laws. The "border surge," which passed by a 67-27 vote will double the number of border agents along the Southern border of the U.S. and nearly 700 miles of fencing. It also requires all the new security measures to be in place before any currently undocumented immigrants are granted resident status, but opponents say those provisions may never be completed and would be unlikely to actually improve security.
The 67-vote victory was enough to get the amendement past a filibuster, but it will still need a full debate and another majority vote to pass before the Senate can move on to considering the full bill. The agreement should be enough to get the larger bill through the Senate, but none of that will matter if the House of Representatives doesn't take up the bill, something that still is uncertain at this point.
Most Republicans were reluctant to consider any immigration package without some guarantee that border security would be strengthened. The most strident even wanted proof that new security measure were actually working before going any further. Democrat Charles Schumer, who helped author the main bill, accepted a compromise that will spend $46 billion on security initiatives along the Mexican border, though one opponent of the measure called it a "a Christmas wish list for Halliburton" and other defense contractors. Others, like Ted Cruz of Texas, called it a "fig leaf" that won't do much at all.
Still, the bill's backers managed to get 67 votes despite the fact that several Senators missed the vote after being stranded out of town by bad weather. The hope was that getting at least 70 "yes" votes would make the bill appear so bipartisan and popular that it would force the House to bring it to a vote. However, Speaker John Boehner is still saying he won't bring it to a floor without a majority of Republicans already supporting it. If he holds to that stipulation, the reform that both sides are calling for may never come to be. The Senate hopes to send the House a bill before July 4, so that they will have all of next month to consider it.