Washington may again be the site of massive civil-rights rallies, this time pressuring the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives to approve a pathway to U.S. citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, a key Democrat said on Sunday.
With the Senate set to approve its White House-backed bill this week, Senator Charles Schumer, an author of a bipartisan bill that would allow about 11 million immigrants to eventually become U.S. citizens, said he expects House Speaker John Boehner will soon have "no choice," but to let pass a Democratic-backed immigration bill.
However, if Boehner tries to bottle up a bill that includes eventual citizenship, Schumer said, "I could envision in the late summer or early fall ... a million people on the mall in Washington," demanding action.
"This has the potential of becoming the next major civil rights movement," Schumer told CNN's "State of the Union," conjuring up memories of rallies in the 1960s that resulted in landmark anti-discrimination and voting rights legislation for African Americans. Schumer is the third ranking Democrat in the Senate.
Boehner's Republican Party has said it needs to support comprehensive immigration reform to make the party more attractive to Hispanics, the fastest growing U.S. voting bloc.
Yet Boehner, facing pressure from many of the House's most conservative members, said last week that he would not bring any immigration bill up for a vote unless most Republicans back it.
A Senate test vote is set for Monday, with passage of the bill expected on Thursday.
Strong bipartisan Senate support was assured last week when a $40 billion deal was reached to double to about 40,000 the number of federal agents on the U.S.-Mexican border, and obtain a crush of additional high-tech surveillance equipment, including planes, drones and radar.
Up to 70 or more of the 100 senators are expected to vote for the bill, including all 52 Democrats, both independents and perhaps 16 or so of the 46 Republicans, according to aides for both parties.
Rep. Joaquín Castro said Sunday that if Boehner goes through with the so-called Hastert rule, which requires the majority vote of the House's majority to approve a bill rather than a simple majority, it will kill the bill.
"That means that 25 percent of the body can control 100 percent of the agenda and the legislation," said the Texas Democrat, appearing on ABC's "This Week."
Related: Boehner Says No Immigration Vote Without GOP Majority
While some insiders say Boehner wants the immigration legislation to receive bipartisan consideration, others say he is well aware of the future political impact of passing the bill without a majority of Republican votes.
Castro said Sunday that a 70-vote majority in the Senate would be "certainly a precondition" for the bill's passage in the House.
"It's got to pass with strong momentum in the Senate to have a chance in the House," said the Texas lawmaker. "“Nothing really original I think is going to originate in the House of Representatives. So that's really a precondition. If it does that, I actually think it has a good choice. I still believe that we can pass it in 2013.”
Immigration reform got more momentum in the Senate this past week after an amendment to toughen the nation's borders was negotiated by Republican Sens. Bob Corker, Tennessee and John Hoeven, of North Dakota.
Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, also appearing on "This Week," urged fellow lawmakers to consider carefully before endorsing immigration overhaul, reports The Hill.
"I don't understand the rush," Kelly said. "We saw what happened in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Any time you rush anything through that big -- this was up to 1,100 pages -- I doubt that anybody's really read it and been able to really get through every -- every piece of it."
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