WASHINGTON - Senate Republicans are split over the immigration bill steaming toward approval at week's end, a divide that renders the ultimate fate of White House-backed legislation unpredictable in the House and complicates the party's ability to broaden its appeal among Hispanic voters.
To some Republicans, the strength of Senate GOP support for the bill is all but irrelevant to its prospects in the House. Conservatives there hold a majority and generally oppose a core provision in the Senate measure, a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the United States illegally.
Any such impact is "greatly overrated," said Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, who previously served as chief vote counter for House Republicans.
In this June 20 file photo, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Republicans are deeply split over the immigration bill now steaming toward Senate passage, with business allies pulling in one direction and tea party supporters in the other.
But Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., offered a different view. A Senate vote on Monday to toughen border security with thousands of new agents and billions of dollars in technology "obviously makes final legislation more likely," the party's 2012 vice presidential nominee said on CBS.
One prominent Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, also says House sentiment can be changed, particularly through the addition of strong border security measures of the kind that resulted from negotiations with previously uncommitted Republicans.
"I believe a large bipartisan vote will wake up our colleagues ... in the House," Schumer said shortly before the Senate inserted a requirement for 20,000 new Border Patrol agents and a total of 700 miles of fencing along the border with Mexico.
"Hopefully, as congressmen look how their senators voted, they will be influenced by it."
In the key Senate showdown so far, 15 Republicans voted to advance the legislation that toughens border security at the same time it creates a chance at citizenship for 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally. Another 27 voted to keep the bill bottled up.
Republicans who voted to block the legislation generally did so after saying it would not deliver on its promise of operational control of the border.
"When you look at it, it doesn't, and they know it," Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said of the bill's backers, who quickly disputed the charge.