The path to passage of the Senate's immigration overhaul is becoming more clear, with an assist from the Supreme Court.
When the Supreme Court threw out the Defense of Marriage Act this morning, it effectively negated the need to add language to the immigration bill authored by Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., regarding immigration benefits for married same-sex couples.
"With the Supreme Court's decision today, it appears that the anti-discrimination principle that I have long advocated will apply to our immigration laws and binational couples and their families can now be united under the law," Leahy said. "As a result of this welcome decision, I will not be seeking a floor vote on my amendment."
Leahy said he would work with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on legislation to make sure that equal benefits are applied to couples in same-sex marriages throughout federal law.
Followers of #WGDB know that Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., suggested in early May that such an outcome was possible.
"The DOMA ruling could change this whole debate," Durbin said on May 7, noting the decision could grant similar federal benefits as those that would be provided in the Leahy amendment.
An emotional Leahy opted against offering his amendment during his committee's marathon markup of the measure, aware that Republican supporters of the "gang of eight" immigration package, including Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida, would have abandoned their support of the measure.
"If the Judiciary Committee tries to redefine marriage in the immigration bill, they will lose me and many others," Graham said May 13.
Before Leahy's announcement, Graham said he was not yet sure how the Supreme Court's decision might affect work on developing a package of immigration amendments for votes. His gang of eight colleague, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said earlier in the week that Leahy's amendments had not come up during talks he was engaged in about setting up votes on as many as 20 proposals.
The Senate adopted, 69-29, an omnibus amendment Wednesday that incorporated strengthened border security provisions and limited debate on the Judiciary Committee's substitute, 67-31. If all debate time is used, the next votes would take place Thursday morning, with the bill on track to pass no later than Friday afternoon.