The Senate moved closer to passage of comprehensive immigration reform legislation on Wednesday by approving a “border security surge” in a 69-29 vote.
Fifteen Republicans voted for the major amendment, putting the Gang of Eight close to their target of winning 70 votes for final passage. The Senate also defeated a GOP budget point of order that sought to stop the immigration measure.
“This is really America at its best. Each one of those eight senators don’t know, just as I don’t know, whether this work will help them or hurt them in their political careers,” Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDemocrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight Biden looks to climate to sell economic agenda Justice Breyer issues warning on remaking Supreme Court: 'What goes around comes around' MORE (D-Nev.) said ahead of the vote. “But we have a broken immigration system, and they have come up with a solution to fix it.”
Crafted by Sens. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her MORE (R-Tenn.) and John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenThe 19 GOP senators who voted for the T infrastructure bill The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (R-N.D.), the border security plan authorizes increasing the number of border patrol agents by 20,000 and constructing 700 miles of fencing. Those border security measures would have to be met within 10 years in order for immigrants to apply for green cards.
The amendment adds $38 billion in security spending to the $8 billion previously included in the bill. At a minimum, it requires the implementation of $4.5 billion worth of technology and equipment to achieve full surveillance of the border.
“Nobody in this body can say that in this amendment we’re voting on today, that we don’t do anything related to border security in this bill,” Corker said.
The Republicans who voted “yes” were Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCain20 years after 9/11, US foreign policy still struggles for balance What the chaos in Afghanistan can remind us about the importance of protecting democracy at home 'The View' plans series of conservative women as temporary McCain replacements MORE (Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Tight security for Capitol rally; Biden agenda slows Trump offers sympathy for those charged with Jan. 6 offenses Lindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees MORE (S.C.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioMilley says calls to China were 'perfectly within the duties' of his job Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE (Fla.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeBiden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Biden to nominate Jane Hartley as UK ambassador: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Voting rights will be on '22, '24 ballots MORE (Ariz.) — the four GOP authors of the underlying legislation — and Sens. Bob Corker (Tenn.), Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyottePoll: Potential Sununu-Hassan matchup in N.H. a dead heat Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal Sununu seen as top recruit in GOP bid to reclaim Senate MORE (N.H.), Jeff Chiesa (N.J.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsWelcome to ground zero of climate chaos A tale of two chambers: Trump's power holds in House, wanes in Senate Bipartisan blip: Infrastructure deal is last of its kind without systemic change MORE (Maine), Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchCongress, stop holding 'Dreamers' hostage Drug prices are declining amid inflation fears The national action imperative to achieve 30 by 30 MORE (Utah), Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Democrat Jacky Rosen becomes 22nd senator to back bipartisan infrastructure deal 9 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022 MORE (Nev.), Mark KirkMark Steven KirkDuckworth announces reelection bid Brave new world: Why we need a Senate Human Rights Commission Senate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls MORE (Ill.), John Hoeven (N.D.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiEmboldened Trump takes aim at GOP foes The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - DC prepares for Saturday of festivals & Jan. 6 demonstration Republican leaders misjudged Jan. 6 committee MORE (Alaska), Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerTop Republican: General told senators he opposed Afghanistan withdrawal NY Democrat tests positive for COVID-19 in latest House breakthrough case Florida Democrat becomes latest breakthrough COVID-19 case in House MORE (Miss.) and Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderAuthorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate The Republicans' deep dive into nativism Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain MORE (Tenn.).
Many of the Republicans who voted against the amendment are harshly critical of the overall bill. Sens. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE (R-Ala.) and Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley calls for federal prosecutor to probe botched FBI Nassar investigation Woman allegedly abused by Nassar after he was reported to FBI: 'I should not be here' Democrat rips Justice for not appearing at US gymnastics hearing MORE (R-Iowa) say it repeats to mistakes of the last major immigration reform in 1986 by making border enforcement “promises” and offering “legalization first.”
“It continues false promises of a secured border,” Grassley said Wednesday. “It ought to be enforcement now and legalization later.”
To lure more GOP votes, language from other senators was included in the security amendment. One of the changes to the bill restricts certain nonimmigrant visa holders, such as tourists and foreign students, from accessing Medicaid programs and Affordable Care Act benefits.
Democrats won changes as well. Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as country struggles with delta variant Democrats urge Biden to commute sentences of 4K people on home confinement Briahna Joy Gray: Push toward major social spending amid pandemic was 'short-lived' MORE (I-Vt.) secured language to provide $1.5 billion in grants to state workforce investment boards to help young people find jobs over the next two years.
The amendment also includes a provision from Alaska Sens. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska Senate race sees cash surge in final stretch Alaska group backing independent candidate appears linked to Democrats Sullivan wins Alaska Senate GOP primary MORE (D) and Lisa Murkowski (R) that allows summer workers on J-1 visas to work in fish processing plants in their state. Critics have dubbed it the “Crabhusker kickback.”
The Senate also voted 67-31 Wednesday to end debate on the Senate Judiciary Committee reported substitute amendment to S. 744, setting up a final vote on the measure as early as Thursday.
Managers of the immigration bill are working on a deal to allow a few more amendment votes, setting up a final cloture vote that will happen Thursday on the modified bill. If a deal isn’t reached, final passage will happen Friday instead of Thursday.
Later Wednesday evening, Reid tried to set up votes on 32 amendments — 16 of which were from Republicans — but Grassley objected saying the amendment process had not been as "fair and open" as promised.
"The majority party has offered an agreement that in our view is insufficient," Grassley said. "I feel a bit used and abused in this process for 2.5 weeks we’ve been pushing to get votes on our amendments. We’ve had a measly 10 votes on amendments.
"I’m still willing to negotiate votes, but it will need to be a lot of votes. … In the end we may very well not be having anymore amendment."
The majority leader also said he hopes the House “will follow the Senate’s lead and work to pass bipartisan reform.”
But Grassley said the House would have to rectify the Senate’s “miserable failure.”
“The House of Representatives is going to be the deliberative body on immigration reform and it’s going to put the Senate to shame,” Grassley said.
— This story was updated at 5:18 p.m.