Oh, how much things have changed in just a few months. Last May, Republicans and Democrats couldn't agree on any aspect of immigration reform. But on Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a far-reaching immigration bill, clearing the way for a debate in the full Senate.
Is the vote a surprise? Not really, after all the so-called Gang of Eight senators has worked hard to put the comprehensive plan together. Still, the vote is definitely noteworthy given the committee spent the better part of a week wading through about 300 amendments, including some that were clearly aimed at sinking the legislation.
The enforcement-only crowd fought hard for tougher provisions and they got $4.5 billion in border enforcement in the bill. And they won a few key battles -- in total, more than 40 Republican-sponsored amendments were approved by the committee. Fortunately, the craziest or most noxious provisions, including one by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that sought to eliminate the path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants who are illegally in the country, were voted down. At the same time, Democrats conceded some ground. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) withdrew a proposal that would have allowed gay and lesbian U.S. citizens to petition for their spouses abroad.