Immigration reform is the biggest issue that will be decided in Congress in upcoming weeks. Right now, the comprehensive immigration bill has the support of the Democratic side of the Senate, but it will need to attract Republican senators before passage is possible, and only then will the bill even reach the House.
Odds are looking up for the Senate passage. Today, on Face the Nation, Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) became the fifth Republican Senator to support the immigration bill, following in the footsteps of Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla).
As a first-term senator, this is a big move for Ayotte. Speaking to Bob Scheiffer, Ayotte declared the immigration bill to be a "thoughtful bipartisan solution to a tough problem." She assured him that she was satisfied with the extensive border security provisions in the bill, including the E-Verify system and more visas for skilled workers, and she praised the pathway to citizenship as "tough but fair." Democratic senators are hopeful that Ayotte's support means that more Republican Senators will follow her lead.
However, many Republican Senators are standing firm on their refusal to back the bill. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) stated that the bill prioritized amnesty, while Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) insisted on approaching immigration reform through "piecemeal" legislation instead of one big bill. One of the most vehement dissenters is Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who, along with Lee, has proposed a Republican filibuster of the immigration bill.
With Ayotte's vote joining all of the Democrats and the handful of Republicans, there should be just enough to overcome the filibuster, and Ayotte herself has said that she doubts Republicans will choose that route. But Cruz's threat shows just how divisive an issue immigration reform can be.
The bill will be up for a key Senate test vote this Tuesday. If it passes then, revisions will continue until the final vote, which could be as early as the end of June. Rubio, one of the original Gang of Eight who wrote the bill, has stated that he is confident in the bill's passage through the Senate as long as Democrats prove they are willing to revise it towards a more Republican sensibility. If the Senate approves, the bill will go to the more-hostile House, where it could be completely demolished or broken apart into different bills.
Regardless of the future uncertainty, what is clear is that unless the Senate manages to approve the bill before Congress' July recess, immigration reform will become yet another item on Congress's to-do list that will not get crossed off.