6 Senate Republicans Who Could Vote for Immigration Reform

Some of the GOP senators who could propel immigration reform forward.

June 3, 2013, 2:09 PM

June 3, 2013— -- intro: Immigration reform is heading to the Senate floor a week from today.

Now where are those votes?

An immigration bill will need 60 senators to clear any attempt by Republicans to filibuster the legislation.

When you add up the Democrats and Independents, that gives you 54 likely yes votes. There's one seat currently open after the the death of New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat.

Add the four Republicans who are already backing the legislation, and you have 58.

That means the bill only needs a handful of GOP votes to clear a filibuster.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), part of the group that crafted the legislation, wants even more. He thinks the bill should pass with as many as 70 votes, to show that it has strong Republican support as it heads to the House.

Here are a few of the Republicans who might vote for immigration reform, based on background from groups in favor of the bill:

This post was updated on June 4, 2013, 10:55 a.m..

quicklist: 1title: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)text: Back in 2010, another immigration bill failed to pass the Senate. The DREAM Act would have created a pathway to citizenship for undocumented young people. The reason it died: only three Republicans voted for it. Murkowski was one of them. That means there's a chance she'll back this bill, as well.

Last week, she told a crowd of 200 Anchorage residents at a Catholic church that she supports immigration reform with "a path" for undocumented immigrant workers.

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quicklist: 2title: Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.)text: If politics is about adapting to survive, Dean Heller could be a new brand of Republican. As Politico pointed out in March, he's transformed himself to match the changing demographics of his state. In Nevada, 46 percent of the population is non-white and there's a growing number of Latino residents.

Heller sounded very positive about immigration reform in an op-ed he wrote for the Las Vegas Review-Journal on May 26:

"By establishing a path forward towards earned legal status, millions of people currently living in the shadows can understand what they and their family members need to do live here legally, plan for the future, and join in the fabric of American society," he wrote.

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quicklist: 3title: Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.)text: Based on his previous voting record, you wouldn't peg Chambliss as an immigration reform supporter. But a couple of factors have people thinking he'll vote for the legislation.

He'll want to bring home an immigration deal that helps the agricultural interests in his state, and the American Farm Bureau, the country's biggest grower association, is supporting the bill.

Plus, Chambliss is retiring after this term, so he doesn't have to worry about taking heat during a re-election bid.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), one of the drafters of the Senate immigration bill, seems to think Chambliss is onboard, according to an exchange recounted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Daniel Malloy.

Malloy spoke with the pair of senators as they made their way to the Capitol in late May.

"We need an immigration reform bill, and I hope my friends listen to me is all I can say," Chambliss told the reporter.

McCain took the opportunity to speak for his colleague:

"We always listen to him," the Arizona senator said. "We'll do whatever he says, and it'll be an aye vote. You can quote me."

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quicklist: 4title: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)text: Collins voted against an immigration reform bill in 2007 and the DREAM Act in 2010. But the moderate Republican is still believed to be reachable this time around.

She hasn't said how she'll vote, but some Tea Party groups seem to think she's leaning toward supporting immigration reform. On a recent call hosted by a group called Eagle Forum, an anonymous caller suggested the best way to get Collins to listen to their point of view would be to "shoot her."

There are other less-psychotic reasons to think she might support a bill. She's the only Republican senator to cosponsor the Uniting American Families Act, a piece of legislation that would allow same-sex couples to receive equal treatment under immigration law. That's a sign that she's flexible on immigration, and willing to vote outside her party's majority.

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quicklist: 5title: Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio)text: The Ohio senator recently said that he couldn't support the reform bill in the Senate because it wasn't tough enough on immigration enforcement. But if Republicans are able to add more enforcement provisions to the bill, you might see someone like Portman jump onboard.

In the same conversation, with the conservative website Newsmax, he also said that he's pro-reform:

"The immigration system is broken, both the legal system and the illegal system, so I am for reform," Portman said.

"On the legal side, frankly, it's hurting us as a country because we're shooting ourselves in the foot by not allowing people to come and yet we don't know who's in our country so we're not administering it well," Portman continued.

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quicklist: 6title: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)text: Before an immigration bill could move to the floor of the Senate, it had to make its way through the committee level, where a smaller group of senators had the opportunity make changes to the legislation.

It was no surprise that the bill passed through the Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee. But on its way to the full Senate, the legislation also gained support from Hatch, who made a deal with the bill's sponsors to loosen restrictions around visas for highly skilled workers.

Even after making a deal to vote the bill out of committee, Hatch hasn't committed to voting the legislation into law. That leaves the door open for him to push for more concessions for big tech companies, or for other conservative elements of the bill.

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