Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked legislation to crack down on cities that don't comply with federal immigration law.
Senators voted 54-45 on a measure to end debate on legislation from Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterBiden inaugural committee to refund former senator's donation due to foreign agent status Bottom line Lysol, Charmin keep new consumer brand group lobbyist busy during pandemic MORE. Sixty votes were needed to overcome the procedural hurdle and move toward a vote on the bill itself.
Two Democrats broke rank and sided with Republicans in the vote.
The Louisiana Republican’s legislation would have limited federal grants to so-called "sanctuary cities" and increased penalties for undocumented immigrants who reenter the United States illegally after being deported.
Vitter argued that Democrats misunderstand the legislation, saying that "there are a lot of myths about our bill versus the facts."
"We have several myths versus facts as part of the record, and I urge everyone, starting with our colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, to study that carefully," he added. "This is an important issue. Sanctuary cities are a real problem, and we need to fix them."
The issue of sanctuary cities captured the political spotlight in July after the death of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle, allegedly at the hands of an illegal immigrant who had already been deported five times.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden: A good coach knows when to change up the team McConnell says he made 'inadvertent omission' in voting remarks amid backlash These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 MORE (R-Ky.) referenced Steinle's shooting ahead of the vote, pressuring Democrats to "put compassion before left-wing ideology today."
But Democrats were intent on blocking Vitter's legislation from moving forward, suggesting that it undercut law enforcement and was an unacceptable substitute for a broader immigration reform proposal.
"Today's vote is nothing but a political show vote. Senator Vitter knows his legislation has no chance of passing the Senate or being signed into law," Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerForced deadline spurs drastic tactic in Congress Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Predictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure MORE (D-N.Y.) said ahead of the vote.
Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Connected Commerce Council - Biden faces reporters as his agenda teeters Biden hits one-year mark in dire straits 'All or nothing' won't bolster American democracy: Reform the filibuster and Electoral Count Act MORE (D-Nev.) also derided the bill on Monday, calling it "vile" and the "Donald TrumpDonald TrumpCheney challenger wins Wyoming Republican activists' straw poll We must do more to protect American Jews 6 in 10 say they would back someone other than Biden in 2024: Fox News poll MORE Act," after the 2016 GOP front-runner.
Even if the bill had managed to overcome Tuesday's procedural hurdle, it’s unclear if it could have maintained Republican support on final passage.
Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCruz to get Nord Stream 2 vote as part of deal on Biden nominees Democrats threaten to play hardball over Cruz's blockade Rubio vows to slow-walk Biden's China, Spain ambassador nominees MORE (R-Ariz.), who has concerns about broadly applying mandatory minimum criminal sentence requirements, told The Hill earlier this month that he was hoping to amend it further on the floor. Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerSeven most vulnerable governors facing reelection in 2022 Nevada becomes early Senate battleground Nevada governor Sisolak injured in car accident, released from hospital MORE (R-Nev.), separately, wanted to include an amendment on immigration reform.
The White House also pushed back against Vitter’s bill ahead of the vote, vowing that President Obama would veto it if it reached his desk.
“The administration believes that these provisions would lead to mistrust between communities and State and local law enforcement,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.
But supporters of Vitter’s bill say that, despite Tuesday’s failed vote, the Senate’s debate on sanctuary cities isn’t over.
Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzHillicon Valley — Senate panel advances major antitrust bill Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products Lawmakers press Biden admin to send more military aid to Ukraine MORE, who is running for president and backs Vitter’s legislation, urged Republican leadership to attach the measure to a “must-pass” bill if Democrats blocked the stand-alone proposal.
“I salute leadership for bringing up this vote, but if a party-line vote blocks it, then the next step is not simply to have a vote. The next step is to attach this legislation to must-pass legislation and to actually fix the problem,” the Texas Republican said.