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Ayotte support for immigration bill could assure filibuster-proof majority

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., announced Sunday that she will provide a crucial Republican vote in favor of an immigration reform bill pending in the Congress, bolstering Democratic-led efforts to build a filibuster-proof majority in favor of the measure.

On the CBS broadcast Face the Nation, Ayotte said she had decided to back the bill, calling the nation's current immigration policy "completely broken."

Sixty votes are needed to invoke cloture and end a filibuster. Four Republican members of the so-called "Gang of Eight," which drafted the immigration bill, have already said they expect to support the bill.

"This is a thoughtful, bipartisan solution to a tough problem and so that's why I'm going to support it," Ayotte said. "I looked at the border security provisions, the e-verify so that we can control who is getting a job in this country and also making sure that there is a better immigration system bringing the high tech workers here so we can be sure that we have the best and the brightest here in this country to grow our economy."

In a roundtable discussion in her Manchester office last month, Ayotte heard business leaders speak of the difficulty they have finding qualified science, technology, engineering and math graduates who are eligible to work in the United States. One of the recruiters told Ayotte that half the STEM graduates interviewed by her company are foreign nationals.

Democrats have a 54-46 majority in the Senate, after losing a seat earlier this month when New Jersey Democrat Frank Lautenberg died and was replaced by New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa, a conservative Republican.

Chiesa will not run in a special election to choose a permanent successor. He is the first Republican Senator from New Jersey in 30 years.

Ayotte said the immigration bill also will resolve issues facing an estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally.

"Bringing them out of the shadows with a tough but fair way for them to earn citizenship; go to the back of the line, pay taxes, pass a criminal background check, learn English," Ayotte said. "This is a bipartisan solution and I look forward to supporting it."

The needed Republican votes to end a filibuster are not completely assured, however.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, a member of the group that worked on the legislation has said he wants tougher border control measures before he backs the bill.

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