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 McCainFrustrated Dems say Obama botched Russia response Coats: Trump seemed obsessed with Russia probe The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamSenate panel questions Lynch on alleged FBI interference The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill Judiciary Committee to continue Russia probe after Mueller meeting MORE (S.C.), Marco RubioMarco RubioWill Republicans stand up to the NRA's insurrection rhetoric? The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill Ivanka Trump turns to House GOP on paid family leave MORE (Fla.), Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeSenate should seek to retain its 'blue slip' tradition for judicial nominees Progressives target Heller and Flake on Senate GOP bill The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (Ariz.) — the four authors of the legislation — and Sens. Bob CorkerBob CorkerPolicymakers forget duty to protect taxpayers from financial failures Overnight Defense: GOP chairman moves ahead with 0B defense bill | Lawmakers eye 355 ship navy | Senate panel seeks answers on shoot down of Syrian jet Overnight Cybersecurity: Trump tweetstorm on Russia probe | White House reportedly pushing to weaken sanctions bill | Podesta to testify before House Intel MORE (Tenn.), Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderThe Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill Trump administration pays June ObamaCare subsidies to insurers Republicans and the lost promise of local control in education MORE (Tenn.), Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteOPINION: Democracy will send ISIS to the same grave as communism Kelly Ayotte joins defense contractor's board of directors Week ahead: Comey firing dominates Washington MORE (N.H.), Jeff Chiesa (N.J.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsGOP Medicaid cuts will be disastrous for millions with Alzheimer’s Rocky rollout for Senate healthcare bill Overnight Healthcare: Latest on Senate healthcare bill | Four conservatives say they'll oppose | Obama slams bill | Health groups offer scathing criticism MORE (Maine), Orrin HatchOrrin HatchLive coverage: Senate GOP unveils its ObamaCare repeal bill Grassley doesn't see how Judiciary 'can avoid' obstruction probe Ryan calls for tax reform to be permanent MORE (Utah), Dean HellerDean HellerPro-Trump group launches seven-figure ad buy against GOP senator opposing repeal bill Fifth GOP senator announces opposition to healthcare bill Progressives target Heller and Flake on Senate GOP bill MORE (Nev.), Mark KirkMark KirkWhy Qatar Is a problem for Washington Taking the easy layup: Why brain cancer patients depend on it The Mideast-focused Senate letter we need to see MORE (Ill.), John HoevenJohn HoevenGOP considers keeping ObamaCare taxes Senators want governors involved in health talks Republicans go to battle over pre-existing conditions MORE (N.D.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiGOP Medicaid cuts will be disastrous for millions with Alzheimer’s Overnight Healthcare: Latest on Senate healthcare bill | Four conservatives say they'll oppose | Obama slams bill | Health groups offer scathing criticism The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (Alaska) and Roger WickerRoger WickerOvernight Defense: GOP chairman moves ahead with 0B defense bill | Lawmakers eye 355 ship navy | Senate panel seeks answers on shoot down of Syrian jet Lawmakers unveil bill to set 355-ship Navy Overnight Tech: Uber CEO resigns | Trump's Iowa tech trip | Dems push Sessions to block AT&T-Time Warner deal | Lawmakers warned on threat to election systems | 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 BrownDems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity Senate Banking panel huddles with regulators on bank relief Overnight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief 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 IsaksonJohnny IsaksonGeorgia special election runoff: live coverage House approves VA bill, sending it to Trump Senate backs bill making it easier to fire VA employees MORE (Ga.) and Saxby ChamblissSaxby ChamblissOPINION: Left-wing politics will be the demise of the Democratic Party GOP hopefuls crowd Georgia special race Democrats go for broke in race for Tom Price's seat 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 McConnellMitch McConnellMeadows: Senate bill lacks conservative support to pass House Fifth GOP senator announces opposition to healthcare bill The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (Ky.) and Sen. Rob PortmanRob PortmanA tale of two drug bills — one proposed bill will worsen the drug prices crisis Sanders to headline 'Don't Take Our Health Care' bus tour Rocky rollout for Senate healthcare bill 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 SessionsJeff SessionsPreet Bharara emailed DOJ about phone call from Trump: report Sessions backs LGBT Pride Month event Overnight Cybersecurity: Trump tweetstorm on Russia probe | White House reportedly pushing to weaken sanctions bill | Podesta to testify before House Intel 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 SandersBernie SandersSanders: ‘Thousands will die’ under GOP health bill A tale of two drug bills — one proposed bill will worsen the drug prices crisis The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (Vt.), a liberal independent who caucuses with Democrats, secured $1.5 billion over two years for a youth jobs program. 

Sen. Mark BegichMark 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 LeahyGoing national with automatic voter registration Republicans slam Trump’s new policy toward Cuba Trump draws a harder line on Cuba 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 ReidDems see surge of new candidates Dems to grind Senate to a halt over ObamaCare repeal fight GOP fires opening attack on Dem reportedly running for Heller's Senate seat 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.