By Alexander Bolton - 06/27/13 08:19 PM EDT
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.
Fourteen Republicans voted to end debate and not a single Democrat opposed it, a significant victory for Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerTrump poised to betray primary supporters on immigration Rubio primary challenger loans campaign M Is Trump deliberately throwing the election to Clinton? 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 LeahySanders, liberals press Obama to expand closure of private prisons Police union: Clinton snubbed us Congress saving the past for the future MORE (D-Vt.) declared: “Today is another historic day in the Senate.”
Republican Sens. John McCainJohn McCainMcCain's primary opponent takes shot at his age McCain, allies cheer watchdog report defending A-10 FULL SPEECH: Hillary Clinton links Trump to 'alt-right' in Reno MORE (Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamGraham: Let special prosecutor probe Clinton emails The Trail 2016: Clinton’s ups and downs Graham: GOP being 'left behind' under Trump MORE (S.C.), Marco RubioMarco RubioAnalysis: Clinton speaks at higher grade level than Trump Trump poised to betray primary supporters on immigration Senate Dems' campaign arm knocks GOP for Trump support MORE (Fla.), Jeff FlakeJeff FlakePence earns GOP raves in first month as Trump VP GOP senator: Trump needs to offer specific apologies Reid: Dems could force Senate vote on Garland MORE (Ariz.) — the four GOP authors of the legislation — and Sens. Bob CorkerBob CorkerBolton would consider serving as Trump's secretary of State Trump struggles to land punches on Dems over ISIS GOP senator: Trump calling Obama ISIS founder 'went far too far' MORE (Tenn.), Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteMcCain, allies cheer watchdog report defending A-10 Senate Dems' campaign arm knocks GOP for Trump support Ayotte: Trump not always honest, trustworthy MORE (N.H.), Jeffery Chiesa (N.J.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsPolitical bedfellows of 2016 may be strange but not unheard of Obama creates new national monument in Maine GOP senator considering Libertarian ticket MORE (Maine), Orrin HatchOrrin HatchGOP lawmakers call for overhaul of proposed corporate tax rules DEA decision against reclassifying marijuana ignores public opinion Trump op-ed counters Clinton’s pitch to Utah voters 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 KirkWhite House dismisses GOP senator's likening of Obama to 'drug dealer in chief' The Trail 2016: Focus on the Foundation White House: 0M Iran payment wasn’t ransom 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 Rep. Black wins primary fight GOP senators to donors: Stick with us regardless of Trump Overnight Healthcare: Mysterious new Zika case | Mental health bill in doubt | Teletraining to fight opioids 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 PaulRand PaulTrump, Clinton boost Snapchat spending Clinton enjoying edge over Trump in Silicon Valley Trump gets little backing from Silicon Valley MORE (R-Ky.) and Ted CruzTed CruzThe Trail 2016: On the fringe FULL SPEECH: Hillary Clinton links Trump to 'alt-right' in Reno Presidential hopefuls still bank on retail politics 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 PryorCotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Top Democrats are no advocates for DC statehood MORE (Ark.), Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuFive reasons the Trump campaign is in deep trouble Louisiana gov: Trump helped 'shine a spotlight' on flood recovery Giuliani: Trump 'more presidential' than Obama in Louisiana visit MORE (La.) and Kay HaganKay HaganClinton's lead in NC elevates Senate race Democratic National Convention event calendar 10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2016 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 BoehnerNew Trump campaign boss took shots at Ryan on radio show Election reveals Paul Ryan to be worst speaker in U.S. history Getting rid of ObamaCare means getting rid of Hillary 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 BoehnerNew Trump campaign boss took shots at Ryan on radio show Election reveals Paul Ryan to be worst speaker in U.S. history Getting rid of ObamaCare means getting rid of Hillary 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 SessionsJeff SessionsSessions: 'I can be supportive' of Trump's immigration plans Hard-liners shrug off Trump’s softer tone on immigration Trump vows to protect jobs, wages for Hispanic voters 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 ReidMcConnell: Senate won't take up TPP this year Politicians can’t afford to ignore Latinos Trump poised to betray primary supporters on immigration 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 GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley: Mylan not going far enough with EpiPen discounts Five things to know about the Clinton Foundation and its donors Clinton calls for EpiPen maker to lower price 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.