WASHINGTON – Senate leaders have agreed on a way to bring a pulled immigration bill forward, breaking the impasse that had stalled the bill, Fox News confirms.
The compromise legislation could come up as early as the middle of next week, once the Senate completes a large energy package. Legislators will consider 19 amendments (10 from Republicans and nine from Democrats) that are in need os some 'polishing' a senior Republican aide tells Fox News.
President Bush's support for a $4.4 billion infusion of border security cash today apparently helped to ease concerns of many conservatives, as well as some liberals. Many members had feared the funds would, in the end, not be put foward to build 370 miles in new border fencing, hire border patrol officers, construct some 200 miles of vehicle barriers, and other beefed up provisions.
The funding will be allocated in a large amendment authored by Republican Sens Jon Kyl of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Mel Martinez of Florida.
The measure designed as a "confidence builder" for many conservatives, and it went along way toward breaking the stalemate that resulted in Dem leader Reid pulling the bill from the floor last week.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid approved the new deal on immigration after meeting mith Minority Leader Mitch McConnel.l
Details of the immigration compromise remain to be finalized, but top Democratic sources say Reid had closely monitored the behind-the-scenes dickering over policy changes and a finite list of amendments due for consideration. Based on the latest updates on the policy and amendments, Reid will approve the compromise and move late Thursday to put the bill back on the calendar for Senate consideration in the middle of next week.
"He's going to bless it and he's going to get the Senate back in the business of dealing with immigration," said a source in the Democratic Senate leadership.
The principal change to the bipartisan immigration compromise that Reid shelved last week is the addition of $4.4 billion in added border security spending. That money will be added to the base bill to return to the floor. Any other changes to the immigration bill will have to be made through the amendment process.
The base immigration bill seeks to tighten border security, put an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants on a path to permanent residency and create a temporary worker program.
Republican leaders have promised to produce enough votes to curtail debate on the bill and proceed to final passage. Last week's impasse arose after Reid twice failed to collect the 60 votes necessary to limit debate and move toward final passage.
With the GOP votes in hand and a finite list of amendments to be offered by 11 Democratic and 11 Republican senators, Democratic sources said Reid is now determined to see whether the legislation can survive the amendment process intact. If it does, the Senate could vote on final passage of the bill by next Friday, Democratic sources said.
GOP sources tell FOX News that the new bill has enough support from Republicans for Reid to prevail on a procedural vote to get the bill to final passage.
Earlier in the day, President Bush agreed to the plan in hopes of winning over fellow Republicans.
"We're going to show the American people that the promises in this bill will be kept," Bush said in a speech to the Associated Builders and Contractors.
An earlier procedural vote on June 7 failed to get the 60 votes necessary to curtail debate, a defeat Reid said forced him to pull the bill.
That maneuver drastically diminished prospects for comprehensive immigration reform, but a tenacious lobbying effort by top Bush administration officials and the bipartisan architects of the so-called "grand compromise" have kept the bill on life support.
Many hurdles to passing the Senate bill remain. Still, efforts to revive the bill appear to have more momentum than at any time since Reid pulled the bill from the floor. All sides agree if a commitment to passing the bill isn't agreed to this week, the bill is likely to die.
FOX News' Major Garrett and Trish Turner contributed to this report.