Schumer Thinks Senate Needs More Than 60 Votes for Immigration to Push House to Act

Shane Goldmacher
National Journal

Just breaking up an expected Republican filibuster of immigration legislation may not be enough. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., one of the architects of the bipartisan immigration overhaul, said Thursday that backers of the legislation can’t afford passage barely above the filibuster-proof margin of 60 senators if they want to force the hand of the GOP-led House.

“If we were to pass this bill with say over 50 Democratic votes, which I do think is possible—it has widespread support on the Democratic side—and only eight or nine Republican votes, it would pass. We’d get to 60,” Schumer said. “But it would bode poorly for the House.”

Schumer, appearing alongside legislation cosponsor Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, said, “It would be wonderful if we could get a majority on both sides [of the aisle].”

“Very doable,” chimed in McCain.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and his GOP colleagues have largely played the waiting game in the 113th Congress on both immigration and gun control, hoping the Senate bogs down in partisan disputes and fails to pass any meaningful new laws. It has worked so far on guns. Schumer suggested that an immigration measure would have to pass the Senate decisively to goad the House into action.

McCain and Schumer, two Senate old-timers, were jovial with one another Thursday, as McCain waved off a scrambled-egg breakfast while Schumer eagerly sought out refills of his coffee. They interjected and finished off one another’s sentences like an old couple.

When Schumer proclaimed that “a majority of Republicans support” a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, McCain interrupted. “As long as ... ,” McCain said, before Schumer completed the thought, saying, “There’s a path. You earn it.”

Asked about President Obama’s role in the negotiations over immigration reform, Schumer said, “He was terrific. Just about perfect.” McCain jumped in: “I wouldn’t go that far.”

They both agreed that the cooperative path they and the rest of the so-called Gang of Eight were plowing could help set an example for their colleagues on other issues.

“There’s a different mood in the Senate,” Schumer said, predicting that “this session is going to be a lot more productive than the last few.”

“Which is not a high bar,” McCain added.