Immigration reform passes key Senate test in 67-27 vote on border measure

The Senate voted 67-27 Monday to advance a border security amendment to bipartisan immigration legislation, building momentum for a final vote later this week. 

Fifteen of the “yes” votes were Republicans, suggesting supporters could hit the 70-vote threshold they hope to reach in the final vote. It is thought a big, bipartisan vote could put pressure in the GOP-held House, where immigration reform faces dimmer prospects. 

The Republicans who voted “yes” were Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainRubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts The VA's woes cannot be pinned on any singular administration Overnight Defense: Mattis offers support for Iran deal | McCain blocks nominees over Afghanistan strategy | Trump, Tillerson spilt raises new questions about N. Korea policy MORE (Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDurbin: I had 'nothing to do' with Curbelo snub Republicans jockey for position on immigration Overnight Health Care: House passes 20-week abortion ban | GOP gives ground over ObamaCare fix | Price exit sets off speculation over replacement MORE (S.C.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Tillerson, Trump deny report of rift | Tillerson says he never considered resigning | Trump expresses 'total confidence' in secretary | Rubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad Rubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts GOP establishment doubts Bannon’s primary powers MORE (Fla.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeAuthorizing military force is necessary, but insufficient Republicans jockey for position on immigration McCain, Flake warn against 'politically-motivated penalties' for Canadian defense firm MORE (Ariz.) — the four authors of the legislation — and Sens. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerDeficit hawks voice worry over direction of tax plan The Hill Interview: Budget Chair Black sticks around for now Overnight Finance: White House requests B for disaster relief | Ex-Equifax chief grilled over stock sales | House panel approves B for border wall | Tax plan puts swing-state Republicans in tough spot MORE (Tenn.), Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderChildren’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Overnight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Schumer calls for attaching ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance MORE (Tenn.), Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteDems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada Stale, misguided, divisive: minimum wage can't win elections Trump voter fraud commission sets first meeting outside DC MORE (N.H.), Jeff Chiesa (N.J.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGun proposal picks up GOP support Giffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns Agricultural trade demands investment in MAP and FMD MORE (Maine), Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchGOP eyes limits on investor tax break Children’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Overnight Finance: White House requests B for disaster relief | Ex-Equifax chief grilled over stock sales | House panel approves B for border wall | Tax plan puts swing-state Republicans in tough spot MORE (Utah), Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerNevada senators urge airlines to enact new policies after Las Vegas shooting Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada GOP establishment doubts Bannon’s primary powers MORE (Nev.), Mark KirkMark KirkGiffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns Stale, misguided, divisive: minimum wage can't win elections Immigration critics find their champion in Trump MORE (Ill.), John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenThe Hill's Whip List: Republicans try again on ObamaCare repeal Air Force One is Trump’s new boardroom Overnight Finance: Trump strikes debt, spending deal with Dems | Deal shocks GOP | Fed’s No. 2 to resign | Trump keeps tax squeeze on red state Dems | House aims to pass budget next week MORE (N.D.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiRepublicans jockey for position on immigration GOP senator knocks Trump: 'Not a fan of governing by tweet' How the effort to replace ObamaCare failed MORE (Alaska) and Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerGOP establishment doubts Bannon’s primary powers Whatever you think the Alabama special election means, you’re probably wrong Breitbart charts path for 2018 midterm races MORE (Miss.). 

Two Democrats, Sens. Mark UdallMark UdallDemocratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Gorsuch's critics, running out of arguments, falsely scream 'sexist' MORE (Colo.) and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownDems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada Mandel leads GOP primary for Ohio Senate seat: internal poll Red-state Dems need more from Trump before tax embrace MORE (Ohio), missed the vote. If they’d been present, supporters would have won 69 votes on Monday. 

Proponents could reach more than 70 votes if they agree to further concessions, or if some Republican senators who missed Monday’s action vote “yes” on final passage. 

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Sens. Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonAmeriCorps hurricane heroes deserve a reward — don’t tax it Price’s job seen at risk after Trump slams private jet use Senate passes bipartisan Medicare reform bill MORE (Ga.) and Saxby ChamblissSaxby ChamblissLobbying World Former GOP senator: Let Dems engage on healthcare bill OPINION: Left-wing politics will be the demise of the Democratic Party MORE (Ga.) were absent Monday and are seen as swing votes. Chambliss and Isakson were early supporters of immigration reform legislation in 2007, and Chambliss is retiring at the end of this Congress. 

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGun proposal picks up GOP support Children’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Dems see Trump as potential ally on gun reform MORE (Ky.) and Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanOvernight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open Reddit hires first lobbyists Senate panel approves bill compelling researchers to ‘hack’ DHS MORE (Ohio) were among the notable Republican “no” votes, though it is possible Portman could vote “yes” in the final vote. Portman wants to speed up the implementation timeline for the employer verification program, which mandates that employers check the immigration status of hires. 

The amendment advanced Monday would boost security spending by $30 billion, and was intended to address persistent GOP concerns about a porous U.S.-Mexico border. 

Crafted by Corker and Hoeven, it authorizes increasing the number of border patrol agents by 20,000 and constructing 700 miles of fencing. 



It adds $38 billion in spending for security measures to the $8 billion previously included in the base bill. At a minimum, it requires the implementation of $4.5 billion worth of technology and equipment to achieve full surveillance of the border. 


McCain, the chief Republican sponsor of the broader bill who helped negotiate the deal with Corker and Hoeven, said it would ensure a 90 percent apprehension rate of illegal entrants along the Southern border. 

“The head of the border patrol has said unequivocally to me that if you get this technological equipment in, that he is confident that we will have 90 percent effective control of the border and 100 percent situational awareness,” he said. That argument failed to convince Mc

Connell, who said the additional spending would not guarantee anything. 

“From the outset of this debate, I have been clear about the fact that in order for a reform bill to succeed, we would have to be able to prove to our constituents that the border would finally be secured. If we can’t guarantee that, anything else we do won’t be worth much.” 

Negotiators included the language hammered out with Corker and Hoeven in an amendment adding up to nearly 1,200 pages — prompting an outcry from conservative opponents. 

Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsIntel leaders: Collusion still open part of investigation Republicans jockey for position on immigration Biden to Alabama: No more extremist senators MORE (R-Ala.), an outspoken critic, grumbled that many of his colleagues did not have enough time to read the legislation. 

“This is exactly what happened with ObamaCare,” he said on the Senate floor. “The majority rushed through a complex bill so there would be no time to understand what’s in it.” 

Corker argued his new language spans only 119 pages and that the remaining 1,100 pages comprises the original bill, which has been available for review since May. 

Corker said “five tangible triggers” in his proposal — which must be achieved in 10 years — would take power out of the hands of the Department of Homeland Security to waive border security provisions. 

“If you think border security is not OK under the status quo, vote for this amendment,” Corker said. “If you want to give full control to [Homeland Security Secretary] Janet Napolitano, don’t vote for this amendment.” 

Negotiators included language to cement the support of wavering Democrats, as well. Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies Clip shows Larry David and Bernie Sanders reacting after discovering they're related For now, Trump dossier creates more questions than answers MORE (Vt.), a liberal independent who caucuses with Democrats, secured $1.5 billion over two years for a youth jobs program. 

Sen. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE (D-Alaska), who faces a tough reelection race next year, persuaded negotiators to include language to help the Alaskan seafood industry maintain a reliable pool of seasonal labor. 

But not all Democrats were thrilled about the changes. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOvernight Regulation: Massachusetts AG sues Equifax | Trump weighs easing rules on gun exports | EPA nominee to fight worker safety rule in court Trump to ease rules on gun exports: report Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions MORE (D-Vt.) criticized the amendment for suspending federal contracting regulations for the border security spending. 

“I am sure there are federal contracting firms high-fiving at the prospect of all of the spending demanded by some of our friends on the other side in this amendment,” Leahy said on the Senate floor. 

Republicans worry the Corker-Hoeven agreement represents the last chance to make significant changes to the legislation before a vote to end debate and move to final passage on Thursday. 

Fourteen Republican senators wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies Republicans are headed for a disappointing end to their year in power Obama's HHS secretary could testify in Menendez trial MORE (D-Nev.) on Monday protesting the “deeply disturbing” fast-tracking of the 1,000-plus-page immigration bill. 

A spokesman for Reid accused the GOP lawmakers of using the floor proceedings as an excuse to oppose the substance of the legislation. 

“This letter is nothing more than a transparent attempt to suppress the strong bipartisan support for immigration reform,” said Adam Jentleson, 

Reid’s spokesman. 

Reid plans to hold a vote to end debate on the legislation on Thursday. A final vote could take place on Thursday or Friday.

— Published at 6:32 p.m. and last updated at 8:29 p.m.