Although the legislation is still in a nascent form, it is beginning to look like the Senate is going to he able to introduce and pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. The outline provides for an onerous pathway to citizenship, and it should be noted that John McCain and Jeff Flake, Arizona’s Republican senators, are going to be key co-sponsors of the bill.

The next question, however, is whether the House of Representatives will be able to follow suit and pass a bill that can be reconciled with the Senate bill. I have little doubt that the votes are going to be there, but I do not think it is likely that Speaker Boehner can pass a bill if he intends to honor the Hastert Rule. The Hastert Rule is named after former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, and it states that the Speaker will not allow votes on any bills that the majority of House Republicans do not support. Mr. Boehner has already violated the rule twice since November’s election. The first time was on New Year’s Eve when he averted the Fiscal Cliff, and the second time was when he passed disaster relief for the Mid-Atlantic’s efforts to recover from Superstorm Sandy. However, there is a limit to how often Boehner can dismiss the will of his caucus and still remain their leader.

I predict that Speaker Boehner will initially seek to pass an immigration reform bill that has the support of the majority of his caucus. He probably will succeed, but it won’t have any pathway to citizenship and it will probably have a few other poison pills, like mandatory biannual cavity searches of all people who register with the government as undocumented workers.

Once both the House and Senate have passed immigration bills, there will be Conference Committee that will attempt to meld the two bills together. It is quite possible that things will break down at that point and no bill will be produced. But it is also possible that the Senate will largely get its way and the bill will go back to the House in a form that most Republicans are unwilling to support.

Somewhat less likely is the prospect that the bill will come out in a form that Senate Democrats are unwilling to support.

It’s a positive sign that the Senate seems to have found a path forward, but it is still a long way from this initial agreement to final passage of a comprehensive bill.

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