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Senators to Watch on Immigration

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
McConnell, left, and Cornyn are both up for re-election in 2014 and have been taking some of their cues from their statesí junior senators.

If there werenít serious political skin in the immigration game, the Senate would not even be debating a framework to overhaul the system this week. But as it stands, senators are set to begin the formal deliberations Tuesday on a bipartisan framework.

And while passing legislation ó or failing to do so ó could have repercussions for the Republican Party nationally, individual senators of both parties are certain to face ramifications in their home states.

Here is a list of the senators to watch during the immigration proceedings and the political pressures they face back home:

Dean Heller, R-Nev.

Heller is, on paper, a perfect target for backers of the immigration bill: a lawmaker from a western state with a burgeoning Hispanic population who has shown a willingness to play ball on bipartisan issues.

Earlier this spring, Heller, who was appointed to the Senate in 2011 and won a full term last year, flirted with supporting a bipartisan background check agreement before backing away at the last minute.

But likely more important than Hellerís legislative history are the current political demographics of Nevada, a now-purple state that went to President Barack Obama in 2012 by 6 points. According to exit polling, 19 percent of the presidential voters in the state were Latino, with 71 percent of Latinos voting Democratic.

Ted Cruz, R-Texas; John Cornyn, R-Texas; Rand Paul, R-Ky.; Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Perhaps there are no more fascinating in-state duos in the Senate than the Texas and Kentucky delegations. McConnell and Cornyn are the No. 1 and 2 Republicans in the Senate, respectively, and Cruz and Paul are two of the leading conservative voices who have brief, but strong, track records of being pains in leadershipís side.

Cruz and Paul have hinted at larger national ambitions, with Paul expressing more openness to an immigration rewrite than Cruz. Cornyn and McConnell ó both up for re-election in 2014 ó have been taking cues from their junior senators. Cornyn, for example, was one of only three senators to vote against then-colleague John Kerryís bid to be secretary of State. Cruz, of course, was one of the others.

Texas is a state that for the moment is solidly red, but itís also a place where Democrats hope they can soon find themselves in the mix, largely because of the growing Hispanic population.

Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa.

Toomey, the former Club for Growth president, has emerged in the past few years as one of the GOPís top deal-makers in the Senate, though admittedly, in this political climate, thatís an easier title to acquire than it used to be.

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