WASHINGTON — After years of false starts, the Senate appears ready to introduce a bipartisan immigration bill this week — a piece of legislation that has massive policy and political implications attached to it.
A bill being introduced isn't the same thing as a deal that passes the Senate, of course. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" crafting the legislation, acknowledged as much in an interview Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"It is not the take-it-or-leave-it offer," he said. "It is a starting point of reform."
Below is our look at five senators who will have a major role to play in whether the bill will make it to the finish line and what it will look like if/when it does. (Senators are listed in alphabetical order.)
John Cornyn: What the Texas Republican does will be fascinating for three reasons. First, he is up for reelection in 2014 and has to be mindful of how his now-colleague Ted Cruz upset the establishment pick in a Republican Senate primary in 2012. Second, the issue of immigration is obviously a pressing one in the Lone Star State — with strong voices both for and against reform. Third, Cornyn is the second-ranking Republican in the Senate and could well be a window into how the party's leadership views the legislation and the political and policy issues surrounding it.
Bob Menendez: The New Jersey Democrat will be a barometer of whether the bill is aggressive enough for liberals in the Senate to support it. Menendez, who like Rubio is Cuban-American and a member of the Gang of Eight, sounded an optimistic note in an interview Sunday with Star-Ledger editorial columnist Linda Ocasio. "This bill might not have been the one I would have written," he said. "But it is the art of the possible." If Menendez stays on board, he'll bring along other liberals who have concerns about the money being spent on border security. If he walks, so will they.