U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL),
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Senate Majority Whip Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) at a
news conference on
immigration reform (Credit: Getty)

From Washington DC

The marvelous thing about American politics is how close you can get to the main players. You can literally stroll into every senator and congressman’s office and meet the staffer or, if you are lucky, the politician themselves.

In the halls of Congress they will pass you in the hallways, sit near you in the lunchrooms and generally be far more accessible than other political system on earth.

There is no comparable system in any other country I know.

I spent a day on Wednesday lobbying for the E3 visa component of the new immigration bill, which would give Ireland 10,500 work visas a year.

It was a learning experience. The opinions of congressmen and senators I spoke with differed greatly but I prefer to take the Republican viewpoint on this bill rather than the Democrats, who are understandably more optimistic.

I believe a good bill will come out of the senate thanks to New York’s Senator Chuck Schumer, and the other seven members of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight.” Schumer’s leadership on this and his support of the Irish amendment has given him Kennedy-like status in the community.

The support of Senator Marco Rubio from Florida is another key difference in this legislation. As the likely front-runner for the 2016 nomination of his party he is showing tremendous courage getting out front on this contentious issue, especially with his conservative base.

As long as he is on board however it is very difficult to see the GOP side scuttling the bill. I estimate it will win up to 70 votes in the end, sending it to the House with a strong message.

The House also has its bipartisan “Gang of Eight” who are working on proposals in secret and hoping to have their version of a bill.

The problems will be with those hundred or so congressmen and women from southern and southwest states that want nothing to do with immigration reform no matter what their head honchos believe in.

They see it as trouble first and foremost and dread drawing in a Tea Party type opponent if they decide to vote for a new reform bill.

All of which likely means that House Speaker Boehner will be faced with a difficult challenge.

He can use a majority of the Democrats and minority of Republicans to help pass a bill, but there is no guarantee he will go down that path.

The old GOP rule from former Speaker Dennis Hastert was that no bill would pass unless a majority of the majority approved of it.

If Boehner sticks to that it is clear there will be no bill.

However, there are strong indications that Boehner has reached the end of his tether with the hardliners in his own party, that he will step down at the end of this term and that he wants to leave a legacy.

Getting immigration off the table as a 2016 issue would certainly endear him to the GOP party leaders who know they have been whacked by the sense in the Hispanic community that they are rabidly anti-immigrant.

If Boehner bucks the trend and allows a bill out with less than 50 percent support from GOPers then I believe we will have an immigration bill. It will still have to go to conference and the final version will have to pass through both houses again but a bill out of the House is the critical part.

As I say GOP people I spoke to make that a 50/50 possibility at best. I hope the more optimistic view prevails but it will come down to Boehner and his need to burnish his legacy.