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Senate's Immigration Joy Could Turn To Ashes In House

The Senate's "Gang of Eight" on the immigration overhaul legislation became a gang of 68 when all was said and done Thursday.

And that number is important, especially to the senators. Supporters of the immigration bill in the Democratic-controlled Senate have said a strong bipartisan Senate vote for the legislation would put enough pressure on the House to force it to take up comprehensive legislation.

If the Senate couldn't get to 70 votes, the thinking went, nearing that mark could give an immigration overhaul unstoppable momentum in Congress.

"Make no mistake about it. The support this bill has generated here in the Senate will make it impossible to ignore," Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, the immigration bill's chief sponsor, said before the Senate approved the legislation. "I believe the support this bill will receive today in the Senate will propel it to pass the House and be placed for signature on the president's desk by the end of the year."

Unfortunately for Schumer and other supporters of comprehensive immigration legislation, there's enough recent evidence to suggest that strong bipartisan support for legislation in the Senate doesn't necessarily lead to a similar result in the House.

The farm bill, for instance, recently passed the Senate with 66 votes and was widely expected to pass the House. But it didn't. The legislation failed in a 195-to-234 vote in the House because some Republicans thought it spent too much on nutrition-assistance programs and payments to farmers.

Another recent example: The Marketplace Fairness Act, which would give states the power to collect sales taxes from online retailers just as they do from brick-and-mortar sellers, passed the Senate in May with 69 "yea" votes, including 21 Republicans. But the legislation has languished in the House for lack of enough Republican support.

So Schumer could be whistling past the graveyard of moribund legislation in claiming that the immigration legislation's strong showing in the Senate will give it traction in the the House. That body has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to ignore the Senate's work.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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