Senate Dems block 'sanctuary cities' bill

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Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked legislation to crack down on cities that don't comply with federal immigration law.

Senators voted 54-45 on a measure to end debate on legislation from Sen. David VitterDavid VitterTim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense David Duke will bank on racial tensions in Louisiana Senate bid Former KKK leader David Duke running for Senate MORE. Sixty votes were needed to overcome the procedural hurdle and move toward a vote on the bill itself.

Two Democrats broke rank and sided with Republicans in the vote.

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The Louisiana Republican’s legislation would have limited federal grants to so-called "sanctuary cities" and increased penalties for undocumented immigrants who reenter the United States illegally after being deported.

Vitter argued that Democrats misunderstand the legislation, saying that "there are a lot of myths about our bill versus the facts."

"We have several myths versus facts as part of the record, and I urge everyone, starting with our colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, to study that carefully," he added. "This is an important issue. Sanctuary cities are a real problem, and we need to fix them."

The issue of sanctuary cities captured the political spotlight in July after the death of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle, allegedly at the hands of an illegal immigrant who had already been deported five times.  

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellPeter Thiel does not make the GOP pro-gay Reid: Trump is a 'hateful con man' McAuliffe: Clinton won't move TPP without changes MORE (R-Ky.) referenced Steinle's shooting ahead of the vote, pressuring Democrats to "put compassion before left-wing ideology today."

But Democrats were intent on blocking Vitter's legislation from moving forward, suggesting that it undercut law enforcement and was an unacceptable substitute for a broader immigration reform proposal.

"Today's vote is nothing but a political show vote. Senator Vitter knows his legislation has no chance of passing the Senate or being signed into law," Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerConvention shows Democrats support fracking, activists on the fringe Dem ad blasts Indiana senate candidate on Social Security The Trail 2016: Unity at last MORE (D-N.Y.) said ahead of the vote.

Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidReid: Trump may have broken the law Senator slams Reid for 'dangerous game' on Trump briefings Reid faces Sanders supporters' fury at DNC MORE (D-Nev.) also derided the bill on Monday, calling it "vile" and the "Donald TrumpDonald TrumpReid: Trump may have broken the law Trump releases Instagram video saying Sanders 'caved' to pressure Fournier: Cable news should ban Trump until he releases taxes MORE Act," after the 2016 GOP front-runner.

Even if the bill had managed to overcome Tuesday's procedural hurdle, it’s unclear if it could have maintained Republican support on final passage.

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeVulnerable GOP senators praise Kaine GOP Sen. Flake offers Trump rare praise Booker denounces ‘lock her up' chants MORE (R-Ariz.), who has concerns about broadly applying mandatory minimum criminal sentence requirements, told The Hill earlier this month that he was hoping to amend it further on the floor. Sen. Dean HellerDean HellerMcAuliffe: I wouldn't want a 'caretaker' in Kaine's Senate seat Senators offer bill removing hurdles to offering stock options Six senators call on housing regulator to let Congress finish housing finance reform MORE (R-Nev.), separately, wanted to include an amendment on immigration reform.

The White House also pushed back against Vitter’s bill ahead of the vote, vowing that President Obama would veto it if it reached his desk.

“The administration believes that these provisions would lead to mistrust between communities and State and local law enforcement,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.

But supporters of Vitter’s bill say that, despite Tuesday’s failed vote, the Senate’s debate on sanctuary cities isn’t over.

Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzDem lawmakers rally Muslims against Trump Anti-Clinton super-PAC looks to inflame intraparty tension with Sanders backers The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE, who is running for president and backs Vitter’s legislation, urged Republican leadership to attach the measure to a “must-pass” bill if Democrats blocked the stand-alone proposal.

“I salute leadership for bringing up this vote, but if a party-line vote blocks it, then the next step is not simply to have a vote. The next step is to attach this legislation to must-pass legislation and to actually fix the problem,” the Texas Republican said

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