Senate votes 68-32 to end debate on immigration; 4 p.m. final vote

The Senate voted 68-32 Thursday to end debate on immigration legislation, clearing the way for the landmark bill to pass later in the day.

The bill’s authors fell just short of their goal to win 70 votes for the legislation but said the robust bipartisan vote creates a strong mandate for the House to act next month on the issue. Fourteen Republicans voted to end debate, and no Democrats opposed it.

The final vote will take place at 4 p.m.

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Republican Sens. John McCainJohn McCainMcCain granddaughter comes out in support of Clinton With reservations, moving toward Hillary Clinton FULL SPEECH: Hillary Clinton closes out Democratic convention MORE (Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamTrump: 'I hope' Russia is able to get Clinton's emails Syria activists cheer Kaine pick Vulnerable GOP senators praise Kaine MORE (S.C.), Marco RubioMarco RubioFlorida: 'High likelihood' of first Zika transmission in the US Overnight Healthcare: Rubio presses Obama to spend Zika money | FDA moves ahead with trans fat ban The Trail 2016: Her big night MORE (Fla.), Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeVulnerable GOP senators praise Kaine GOP Sen. Flake offers Trump rare praise Booker denounces ‘lock her up' chants MORE (Ariz.) — the four GOP authors of the legislation — and Sens. Bob CorkerBob CorkerTrump starts considering Cabinet Trump's secret weapon is Ivanka Senate Dems introduce Iran sanctions extension MORE (Tenn.), Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteTim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense Clinton brings in the heavy hitters Kasich doesn't regret skipping convention MORE (N.H.), Jeffery Chiesa (N.J.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsTim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense The Trail 2016: Words matter Lobbyists bolting Trump convention early MORE (Maine), Orrin HatchOrrin HatchTim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense Froman: Too early to start trade talks with the UK Bacteria found ahead of Olympics underscores need for congressional action for new antibiotics MORE (Utah), 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 (Nev.), Mark KirkMark KirkDem Senate hopefuls seek boost from convention Former employees reject settlement in lawsuit against Duckworth Duckworth wears ‘You can pee next to me’ shirt MORE (Ill.), John HoevenJohn HoevenMajority of GOP senators to attend Trump convention Death threats against senators remained on Twitter for 2 weeks Senate panel approves funding boost for TSA MORE (N.D.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiMcAuliffe: I wouldn't want a 'caretaker' in Kaine's Senate seat Big Oil makes a push for risky and reckless Arctic drilling GOP divided over 0M for climate fund MORE (Alaska) and Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderGOP senators to donors: Stick with us regardless of Trump Overnight Healthcare: Mysterious new Zika case | Mental health bill in doubt | Teletraining to fight opioids Hopes dim for mental health deal MORE (Tenn.) voted to end debate.

The legislation still has a tough road if it is to become law. Many House Republicans oppose granting legal status to millions of immigrants who came to the country illegally.

Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerDem drops out of race for Boehner's old seat Conservative allies on opposite sides in GOP primary fight Clinton maps out first 100 days MORE (R-Ohio) said Thursday that any immigration legislation, including a conference report with the Senate, must win the support of a majority of his conference to move forward. 

“For any legislation, including a conference report, to pass the House, it’s going to have to be a bill that has the support of a majority of our members,” BoehnerJohn BoehnerDem drops out of race for Boehner's old seat Conservative allies on opposite sides in GOP primary fight Clinton maps out first 100 days MORE said at his weekly Capitol press conference. He reiterated that the House would not simply take up and vote on the Senate bill.

Proponents say the legislation is a long-needed fix of the nation’s “broken” immigration system and argue that failure to act ensures a “de facto amnesty” for millions of people already living and working in the country illegally.

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 (N.Y.), the lead Democratic author of the bill, said he was happy with the outcome despite being short of his 70-vote goal.

"We wanted to get a significant number of Republicans to vote for the bill,” he said on MSNBC Thursday morning. “And what does that mean? It means that when the bill goes to the House, there's going to be pressure on them to do something. So we're feeling pretty good about how we did."

The sweeping bill would put an estimated 8 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship and spend $46 billion to tighten the nation’s borders.

It would also increase the number of visas for high-skilled and agricultural workers and give more weight to educational and employment factors in granting visas.

The bill’s sponsors expanded the pool of Republican support earlier this week by amending the legislation to authorize 20,000 additional border patrol agents and the construction of 700 miles of fencing along the southern border. The amendment also ensured that immigrants could not claim Social Security benefits for the time they worked in the country illegally.

That fell short of the demands of a majority of Republicans who called for a guarantee of 100 percent situational awareness, or full monitoring, and a 90-percent apprehension rate of illegal entrants be achieved along the southern border before granting permanent legal status to millions of immigrants.

“That’s where negotiations really around this bill hung up,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who authored the "border surge" amendment and voted to advance the bill to final passage.

The legislation received another boost last week when the Congressional Budget Office estimated it would reduce the deficit by $197 billion over the next decade and by $700 billion between 2024 and 2033.

But many Republicans said they were concerned by the report’s projection that if the legislation becomes law, as many of 7 million illegal immigrants will still be living in the country 10 years from now.

Sen. Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsOur children, our future – bridging the partisan divide Trump starts considering Cabinet Trump tweets: 'Such a great honor' to be GOP nominee MORE (R-Ala.) on Thursday acknowledged the system needs to be reformed but said the pending legislation falls short.

“It is not a bill that reflects a commitment to a lawful system of immigration in the future,” he said on the Senate floor. “We will admit dramatically more people than we ever have in our country’s history at a time when unemployment is high and the Congressional Budget Office have told us that wages, average wages will go down for 12 years, that gross domestic product per capita will decline for 25-plus years.”

Some Republicans complained that Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidReid: Congress should return 'immediately' to fight Zika Classified briefings to begin for Clinton, Trump The Trail 2016: Her big night MORE (D-Nev.) shut down the amendment process. The Senate voted on only 10 of the more than 500 amendments filed to the bill.

Reid said there were not additional votes because the bill’s opponents objected to various proposals to consider amendments.

Reid’s office has noted that the Senate Judiciary Committee considered 212 amendments and adopted more than 40 Republican-sponsored amendments during its markup in May.

— Russell Berman and Ramsey Cox contributed.