Senate approves immigration bill 68-32

The Senate voted 68-32 Thursday to pass comprehensive immigration legislation, advancing President Obama’s top second term priority and setting up a protracted battle with the House.

Senators took the rare step of voting from their desks to mark the occasion while Vice President Biden (D-Del.) presided from the dais. The Senate used the same formal procedure to pass ObamaCare three years ago.

ADVERTISEMENT
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 not a single Democrat opposed it, a significant victory for Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats will need to explain if they shut government down over illegal immigration White House: Trump remarks didn't derail shutdown talks Schumer defends Durbin after GOP senator questions account of Trump meeting MORE (N.Y.), the lead Democratic sponsor.

He predicted it would become law, despite widespread skepticism among House Republicans.

“Make no mistake about it, the support this bill has generated here in the Senate will be impossible to ignore,” he said shortly before the vote. “I believe the support this bill will receive today in the Senate will propel it to pass the House and be placed for signature on the president’s desk by the end of the year.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle McConnell to Dems: Don't hold government 'hostage' over DACA Nielsen acknowledges Trump used 'tough language' in immigration meeting MORE (D-Vt.) declared: “Today is another historic day in the Senate.”

Republican Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcCain rips Trump for attacks on press NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Meghan McCain says her father regrets opposition to MLK Day MORE (Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDHS chief takes heat over Trump furor Overnight Defense: GOP chair blames Dems for defense budget holdup | FDA, Pentagon to speed approval of battlefield drugs | Mattis calls North Korea situation 'sobering' Bipartisan group to introduce DACA bill in House MORE (S.C.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Cybersecurity: Bipartisan bill aims to deter election interference | Russian hackers target Senate | House Intel panel subpoenas Bannon | DHS giving 'active defense' cyber tools to private sector Senators unveil bipartisan push to deter future election interference Puerto Rico's children need recovery funds MORE (Fla.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeMcCain rips Trump for attacks on press Bipartisan group to introduce DACA bill in House Flake's anti-Trump speech will make a lot of noise, but not much sense MORE (Ariz.) — the four GOP authors of the legislation — and Sens. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSenate campaign fundraising reports roll in Congress should take the lead on reworking a successful Iran deal North Korea tensions ease ahead of Winter Olympics MORE (Tenn.), Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteLessons from Alabama: GOP, throw out the old playbook The Hill's 12:30 Report Explaining Democratic victories: It’s gun violence, stupid MORE (N.H.), Jeffery Chiesa (N.J.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDemocrats search for 51st net neutrality vote Overnight Tech: States sue FCC over net neutrality repeal | Senate Dems reach 50 votes on measure to override repeal | Dems press Apple on phone slowdowns, kids' health | New Android malware found Overnight Regulation: Dems claim 50 votes in Senate to block net neutrality repeal | Consumer bureau takes first step to revising payday lending rule | Trump wants to loosen rules on bank loans | Pentagon, FDA to speed up military drug approvals MORE (Maine), Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchKoch groups: Don't renew expired tax breaks in government funding bill Hatch tweets link to 'invisible' glasses after getting spotted removing pair that wasn't there DHS giving ‘active defense’ cyber tools to private sector, secretary says MORE (Utah), Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerDemocrats search for 51st net neutrality vote Nevada Dems unveil 2018 campaign mascot: 'Mitch McTurtle' Senate campaign fundraising reports roll in MORE (Nev.), Mark KirkMark KirkHigh stakes as Trump heads to Hill Five things to watch for at Trump-Senate GOP meeting Giffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns MORE (Ill.), John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenGOP anxious with Trump on trade GOP lawmakers to Trump: Don't fire Mueller Government needs to help small businesses follow regulations MORE (N.D.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSessions torched by lawmakers for marijuana move Calif. Republican attacks Sessions over marijuana policy Trump's executive order on minerals will boost national defense MORE (Alaska) and Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderWeek ahead: Lawmakers near deal on children's health funding Ryan suggests room for bipartisanship on ObamaCare Time to end fiscal year foolishness MORE (Tenn.) voted for the 1,200-page bill.

Rubio, who is widely considered a possible front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, split with the chamber’s two other likely presidential candidates, Tea Party-favorite Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Fix what we’ve got and make Medicare right this year Despite amnesty, DACA bill favors American wage-earners MORE (R-Ky.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWith religious liberty memo, Trump made America free to be faithful again Interstate compacts aren't the right way to fix occupational licensing laws Texas Dem: ‘I don’t know what to believe’ about what Trump wants for wall MORE (R-Texas), who voted no.

Thirty-two Republicans voted against the measure, including every single member of the leadership.

Republican strategists said a handful of vulnerable Democratic incumbents, Sens. Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (Ark.), Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuProject Veritas at risk of losing fundraising license in New York, AG warns You want to recall John McCain? Good luck, it will be impossible CNN producer on new O'Keefe video: Voters are 'stupid,' Trump is 'crazy' MORE (La.) and Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganPolitics is purple in North Carolina Democrats can win North Carolina just like Jimmy Carter did in 1976 North Carolina will be a big battleground state in 2020 MORE (N.C.), will have to defend their votes on the campaign trail next year.

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 Andrew BoehnerDems face hard choice for State of the Union response Even some conservatives seem open to return to earmarks Overnight Finance: Trump, lawmakers take key step to immigration deal | Trump urges Congress to bring back earmarks | Tax law poised to create windfall for states | Trump to attend Davos | Dimon walks back bitcoin criticism 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 Andrew BoehnerDems face hard choice for State of the Union response Even some conservatives seem open to return to earmarks Overnight Finance: Trump, lawmakers take key step to immigration deal | Trump urges Congress to bring back earmarks | Tax law poised to create windfall for states | Trump to attend Davos | Dimon walks back bitcoin criticism 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.

Schumer 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 as seven million illegal immigrants will still be living in the country 10 years from now.

Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsSessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants DOJ wades into archdiocese fight for ads on DC buses Overnight Cybersecurity: Bipartisan bill aims to deter election interference | Russian hackers target Senate | House Intel panel subpoenas Bannon | DHS giving 'active defense' cyber tools to private sector 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 Mason ReidDems search for winning playbook Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response The Memo: Immigration battle tests activists’ muscle 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.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP senators eager for Romney to join them Five hurdles to a big DACA and border deal Grand jury indicts Maryland executive in Uranium One deal: report MORE (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, and another prominent critic of the bill, said he hopes negotiations with the House will address his concerns.

“My hope is that we will send a bill to the president that will make American stronger, make our borders more secure and make our immigration system more effective,” he said before the vote. “That’s what Americans deserve and what we have a responsibility to deliver."

— Russell Berman and Ramsey Cox contributed.