Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) announced Sunday she will vote for the bipartisan immigration reform bill, a crucial development for the legislation's supporters.
Ayotte said on CBS News' "Face the Nation" that the Gang of Eight bill fixes the problems in the nation's border security and legal immigration systems. She is the first Republican not on the Gang of Eight, which drafted the legislation, to say she will vote for the bill. That brings supporters closer to building a filibuster-proof majority of 60 votes.
"I looked at this carefully, this is a thoughtful bipartisan solution to a tough problem and so that's why I'm going to support it," she said.
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In an op-ed explaining her support, Ayotte called the path to citizenship -- the most critical element of the bill for Democrats -- "a tough but fair means for those who are here illegally to earn citizenship."
Ayotte's vote brings the number of Republican senators officially supporting the bill up to five. GOP Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), John McCain (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) all helped write the bill as members of the Gang of Eight. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) voted for the bill on the Judiciary Committee, but has said more changes are needed to win his support.
If all six of the aforementioned GOP senators and all 54 members of the Democratic caucus support the bill, that would give supporters a critical 60-vote majority. But not all Democrats are on board with the legislation, meaning that backers of the bill must continue to hunt for votes.
The first procedural votes on the legislation in the Senate are scheduled to occur on Tuesday.