Senator Menendez (D-N.J.) said Friday that the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill doesn’t have enough votes to pass the Senate.
The bill won approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 13-5 vote, but Menendez said it lacks the 60 votes necessary to clear the Senate — despite the bill's four Republican co-sponsors.
“We don’t currently have 60 votes identified in the Senate,” Menendez said in an interview with Univision. “We need to add more votes on the floor. That means that the community in your state, in every state, should be contacting your state’s two U.S. Senators saying that they want comprehensive immigration reform, that they are going to judge their political future based on this vote.”
Supporters of the bill are pushing for a strong bipartisan vote of 70 or more to put pressure on the House to take up the legislation.
In addition to the four GOP co-sponsors, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) voted for the bill in committee, though he has not committed his support in the floor vote.
Menendez said he was “optimistic” that the bipartisan coalition could cobble together the super-majority the bill will need to get through the Senate. The New Jersey Democrat said he expected a lengthy debate period, likely starting when Congress reconvenes the week of June 10 and potentially stretching to the Fourth of July break.
“I believe that in those three weeks we can get the necessary votes and we will have the community,” he said. “We are expecting that and working for that.”
The Hill reported on Friday that the “Gang of Eight” plans to meet daily when the bill is up for debate to discuss where lawmakers stand on proposed amendments.
Menendez said the bill would need a strong showing in the Senate “so we can put pressure on the House” to act. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said the “Gang of Eight” bill does not have the votes to make it out of his chamber.
“I don’t know why he said that without looking at the votes, without looking at his own Republican colleagues who will support it,” Menendez said. “But we want to push this bill forward with the most positive votes we can find, more than 60, the 60 we need to be able to pass it here in the Senate, so we can put pressure on the House.”
“Speaker Boehner, will have to decide how he will proceed," Menendez continued. "But I want to have a good vote in the Senate so we send the message that the Republicans and the Democrats are together in favor of immigration reform.”