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Will Immigration Reform Wilt Like the Farm Bill?

Mexican migrant workers harvest organic parsley in Wellington, Colorado

Photograph by John Moore/Getty Images

Mexican migrant workers harvest organic parsley in Wellington, Colorado

As recently as this week, politicians from both parties were predicting that the $500 billion five-year farm bill had a good chance of passing. After the legislation sailed through the Senate vy a vote of 66 to 27, Debbie Stabenow, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, told journalists she was “confident we can come together.” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) promised to bring the bill to the House floor, where it had the support of Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

The final vote tally—234-195—came in as a blistering defeat for the farm bill and a rebuke to the Republican leadership.

This doesn’t bode well for immigration reform. As in the runup to the farm bill, recent news stories make it look like the prospects for immigration reform are trending upward. This week, senators from both parties agreed to beef up border security even further and a nonpartisan analysis found that the bill would dramatically slash deficits and boost gross domestic product over a decade. Conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly endorsed the bill on Thursday night.

But problems are percolating. The senators supporting the bill originally said they felt confident it could get 70 votes; now they’re racheting down that estimate. Even if the legislation passes the Senate, the fate of the farm bill is evidence that there’s no telling whether a weakened Boehner can rally his caucus around immigration reform.

Dwoskin is a staff writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in Washington. Follow her on Twitter: @lizzadwoskin.

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