Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that the immigration bill making its way to the chamber floor later in the day has "serious flaws" that must be fixed before the legislation can pass.
Mr. McConnell said he won't launch a filibuster of the bill in a key test vote scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, but said the bill is still in danger unless its border security provisions can be stiffened and the bill is amended to deny illegal immigrants access to taxpayer-funded benefits like tax credits.
"I'm going to need more than an assurance from [Homeland Security Secretary Janet] Napolitano, for instance, that the border is secure to feel comfortable about the situation on the border," the Kentucky Republican said.
He said the key to fixing the bill will be to have an open amendment process. And indeed, the jockeying over amendments has already begun.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, has said he will allow amendments but signaled he will keep tight reins on which amendments reach the floor.
His goal is to protect the crux of the immigration deal, which offers illegal immigrants quick legalization but withholds the full path to citizenship until after more money is spent on border security, the government creates a new verification system to check workers, and immigration authorities begin to track entries and exits at airports and seaports.
Mr. Reid told Univision, a Spanish-language television network, that he will allow some small changes but nothing "major."
He has a tricky task ahead of him.
In 2007 — the last time the Senate debated a bill — Mr. Reid's heavy hand in controlling amendments threatened to derail the bill, and he had to relent. When fellow Democrats passed an amendment cutting the number of guest-workers from the bill, it threw a wrench in the core of that year's deal, and the bill died in a bipartisan filibuster.
Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican who helped write this year's bill and is considered the key to selling the measure to conservatives, has said he needs to see changes to border security and the entry-exit system.
On Tuesday he said he'll introduce an amendment requiring that illegal immigrants seeking green cards prove they've learned English — not just enrolled in language classes, as the bill currently allows.
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