Senate Dems block 'sanctuary cities' bill
© Getty Images

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 Bruce VitterTrump nominates wife of ex-Louisiana senator to be federal judge Where is due process in all the sexual harassment allegations? Not the Senate's job to second-guess Alabama voters 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.

ADVERTISEMENT
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 McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDems confront Kelly after he calls some immigrants 'lazy' McConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration Overnight Defense: Latest on spending fight - House passes stopgap with defense money while Senate nears two-year budget deal | Pentagon planning military parade for Trump | Afghan war will cost B in 2018 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 (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP lawmaker: Dems not standing for Trump is 'un-American' Trump called for unity — he didn’t even last a week Overnight Defense: GOP plays hardball by attaching defense funding to CR | US reportedly drawing down in Iraq | Russia, US meet arms treaty deadline | Why the military wants 6B from Congress MORE (D-N.Y.) said ahead of the vote.

Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidTo end sugar subsidies, conservatives can't launch a frontal attack House presses Senate GOP on filibuster reform A pro-science approach to Yucca Mountain appropriations MORE (D-Nev.) also derided the bill on Monday, calling it "vile" and the "Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTillerson: Russia already looking to interfere in 2018 midterms Dems pick up deep-red legislative seat in Missouri Speier on Trump's desire for military parade: 'We have a Napoleon in the making' 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 FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeMcConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration Huckabee Sanders: Dems need to decide if they 'hate' Trump 'more than they love this country' Trump spokeswoman fires back at Flake: 'His numbers are in the tank' 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 Arthur HellerHeller campaign slams GOP rival over six-figure nonprofit salary Juan Williams: Help Trump climb down from the wall GOP Senate candidate fundraising lags behind Dems in key races 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 CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSasse statement: Trump nominee who spread conspiracy theories has a ‘tinfoil hat’ Coalition of 44 groups calls for passage of drug pricing bill For the sake of our democracy, politicians must stop bickering 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