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Odds keep improving for immigration reform

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After a bipartisan group of eight senators unveiled their proposal for comprehensive immigration reform, most proponents of improving the status quo, including President Obama and his team, were delighted. All eyes, however, quickly turned to House Republicans, who've long opposed reform and are in a position to kill it in this Congress.

And so it came as a bit of a surprise when Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), arguably one of the nation's fiercest anti-immigrant voices, issued a statement responding to the Senate plan that read, "I agree with most of the language in the very broad guidelines."

Now, King may be trying to moderate his image in advance of a Senate campaign, or maybe he hopes to sound reasonable before demanding a series of changes to the bipartisan package, but the right-wing congressman's statement served as a reminder that immigration reform stands a reasonably good chance of actually passing Congress this year.

Indeed, John Stanton reported that a bipartisan House group is moving forward with its own plan.

The same day a group of Senators publicly laid out a bipartisan framework for comprehensive immigration reform, Republicans told BuzzFeed that lawmakers in the House are closing in on their own set of immigration reform principles -- and could even produce bipartisan legislation in coming weeks.

While immigration reform has long been considered a bridge too far in the Republican-controlled House, where conservative hold enormous sway, these Republicans insisted the conference understands that the political winds are shifting and a deal could be reached.

"Although we have not seen the legislation text, the principles released today are compatible with the discussions in the House," Rep. Mario Diaz Balart said Monday following the release of the Senate's guidelines for comprehensive reform.

It stands to reason that the House and Senate versions will not be identical, and that the White House plan will probably be more ambitious than both of these plans. The differences will, of course, matter a great deal, and will no doubt be the subject of spirited debates.

But the point is, if the president, House, and Senate are all prepared to act, and they all more or less agree on the general framework, the odds of success are quite high.

Indeed, it was hard to miss the direction of the political winds yesterday. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a very conservative ideologue, was willing to use the word "undocumented" instead of "illegal" at the bipartisan press conference. Meanwhile, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a prominent far-right voice in the lower chamber, changed the meaning of the word "amnesty" -- whereas conservatives have generally used the term to describe any pathway to citizenship, Blackburn said it doesn't apply if undocumented immigrants pay a fine and back taxes.

And it's against this backdrop that a bipartisan group of senators and a bipartisan group of House members separately moved forward on comprehensive plans that roughly follow the blueprint unveiled by President Obama in 2011 (which in turn roughly follows the blueprint endorsed by then-President George W. Bush in 2007).

Even among House Republicans likely to oppose any reform plan, the reactions were relatively muted, and we saw very little hair-on-fire outrage.

For proponents of reform, there's reason for optimism.