Immigration reform passes key Senate test in 67-27 vote on border measure

The Senate voted 67-27 Monday to advance a border security amendment to bipartisan immigration legislation, building momentum for a final vote later this week. 

Fifteen of the “yes” votes were Republicans, suggesting supporters could hit the 70-vote threshold they hope to reach in the final vote. It is thought a big, bipartisan vote could put pressure in the GOP-held House, where immigration reform faces dimmer prospects. 

The Republicans who voted “yes” were Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCain#JohnMcCainDay trends on Trump's 73rd birthday #JohnMcCainDay trends on Trump's 73rd birthday New poll finds little GOP support for spending cuts to specific federal programs MORE (Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamMcConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate MORE (S.C.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates Trump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' MORE (Fla.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeDemocrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Democrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment MORE (Ariz.) — the four authors of the legislation — and Sens. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerPress: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Press: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment MORE (Tenn.), Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderTaylor Swift thanks Cory Booker for signing Equality Act petition Taylor Swift thanks Cory Booker for signing Equality Act petition Senate health panel to move forward on package to lower health costs next week MORE (Tenn.), Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteSinema, Gallagher fastest lawmakers in charity race New Hampshire senator to ask 2020 Dems to back repeal of state residency law Schultz recruiting GOP insiders ahead of possible 2020 bid MORE (N.H.), Jeff Chiesa (N.J.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates Democratic challenger to Susan Collins announces Senate bid MORE (Maine), Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump to award Medal of Freedom to economist Arthur Laffer Trump gambles in push for drug import proposal Biden's role in Anita Hill hearings defended by witness not allowed to testify MORE (Utah), Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThis week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary MORE (Nev.), Mark KirkMark Steven KirkEx-GOP Sen. Kirk registers to lobby The global reality behind 'local' problems Dems vow swift action on gun reform next year MORE (Ill.), John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenMcConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal McConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal Senators introduce bill to prevent border agency from selling personal data MORE (N.D.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Klobuchar, Murkowski introduce legislation to protect consumer health data MORE (Alaska) and Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerHillicon Valley: Democratic state AGs sue to block T-Mobile-Sprint merger | House kicks off tech antitrust probe | Maine law shakes up privacy debate | Senators ask McConnell to bring net neutrality to a vote Hillicon Valley: Democratic state AGs sue to block T-Mobile-Sprint merger | House kicks off tech antitrust probe | Maine law shakes up privacy debate | Senators ask McConnell to bring net neutrality to a vote Lawmakers demand answers on Border Patrol data breach MORE (Miss.). 

Two Democrats, Sens. Mark UdallMark Emery UdallDemocrats hope some presidential candidates drop out — and run for Senate  Democrats hope some presidential candidates drop out — and run for Senate  Denver Post editorial board says Gardner endorsement was 'mistake' MORE (Colo.) and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownCongress can defend against Russia by outlawing anonymous shell companies Democrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties Democrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties MORE (Ohio), missed the vote. If they’d been present, supporters would have won 69 votes on Monday. 

Proponents could reach more than 70 votes if they agree to further concessions, or if some Republican senators who missed Monday’s action vote “yes” on final passage. 

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Sens. Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonSenate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump GOP senators work to get Trump on board with new disaster aid package Senators say they've reached deal on Puerto Rico aid MORE (Ga.) and Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissRepublicans say Democrats holding up disaster relief as 'Sandy payback' Ex-House Intel chair: Intel panel is wrong forum to investigate Trump's finances The Hill's Morning Report - Trump budget reignites border security fight MORE (Ga.) were absent Monday and are seen as swing votes. Chambliss and Isakson were early supporters of immigration reform legislation in 2007, and Chambliss is retiring at the end of this Congress. 

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations 'alarming' | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale Overnight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations 'alarming' | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' MORE (Ky.) and Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanHouse passes bill to establish DHS cyber 'first responder' teams House passes bill to establish DHS cyber 'first responder' teams Democrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump MORE (Ohio) were among the notable Republican “no” votes, though it is possible Portman could vote “yes” in the final vote. Portman wants to speed up the implementation timeline for the employer verification program, which mandates that employers check the immigration status of hires. 

The amendment advanced Monday would boost security spending by $30 billion, and was intended to address persistent GOP concerns about a porous U.S.-Mexico border. 

Crafted by Corker and Hoeven, it authorizes increasing the number of border patrol agents by 20,000 and constructing 700 miles of fencing. 



It adds $38 billion in spending for security measures to the $8 billion previously included in the base bill. At a minimum, it requires the implementation of $4.5 billion worth of technology and equipment to achieve full surveillance of the border. 


McCain, the chief Republican sponsor of the broader bill who helped negotiate the deal with Corker and Hoeven, said it would ensure a 90 percent apprehension rate of illegal entrants along the Southern border. 

“The head of the border patrol has said unequivocally to me that if you get this technological equipment in, that he is confident that we will have 90 percent effective control of the border and 100 percent situational awareness,” he said. That argument failed to convince Mc

Connell, who said the additional spending would not guarantee anything. 

“From the outset of this debate, I have been clear about the fact that in order for a reform bill to succeed, we would have to be able to prove to our constituents that the border would finally be secured. If we can’t guarantee that, anything else we do won’t be worth much.” 

Negotiators included the language hammered out with Corker and Hoeven in an amendment adding up to nearly 1,200 pages — prompting an outcry from conservative opponents. 

Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsSarah Sanders to leave White House Sarah Sanders to leave White House Barr compares his return to DOJ to D-Day invasion MORE (R-Ala.), an outspoken critic, grumbled that many of his colleagues did not have enough time to read the legislation. 

“This is exactly what happened with ObamaCare,” he said on the Senate floor. “The majority rushed through a complex bill so there would be no time to understand what’s in it.” 

Corker argued his new language spans only 119 pages and that the remaining 1,100 pages comprises the original bill, which has been available for review since May. 

Corker said “five tangible triggers” in his proposal — which must be achieved in 10 years — would take power out of the hands of the Department of Homeland Security to waive border security provisions. 

“If you think border security is not OK under the status quo, vote for this amendment,” Corker said. “If you want to give full control to [Homeland Security Secretary] Janet Napolitano, don’t vote for this amendment.” 

Negotiators included language to cement the support of wavering Democrats, as well. Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersKamala Harris rallies with McDonald's workers striking for higher wages Kamala Harris rallies with McDonald's workers striking for higher wages Playing fast and loose with the economic facts MORE (Vt.), a liberal independent who caucuses with Democrats, secured $1.5 billion over two years for a youth jobs program. 

Sen. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichFormer GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lobbying world Dem governors on 2020: Opposing Trump not enough MORE (D-Alaska), who faces a tough reelection race next year, persuaded negotiators to include language to help the Alaskan seafood industry maintain a reliable pool of seasonal labor. 

But not all Democrats were thrilled about the changes. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOn The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill Trump's border funding comes back from the dead MORE (D-Vt.) criticized the amendment for suspending federal contracting regulations for the border security spending. 

“I am sure there are federal contracting firms high-fiving at the prospect of all of the spending demanded by some of our friends on the other side in this amendment,” Leahy said on the Senate floor. 

Republicans worry the Corker-Hoeven agreement represents the last chance to make significant changes to the legislation before a vote to end debate and move to final passage on Thursday. 

Fourteen Republican senators wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidImpeachment will reelect Trump Impeachment will reelect Trump Biden faces first crisis as front-runner MORE (D-Nev.) on Monday protesting the “deeply disturbing” fast-tracking of the 1,000-plus-page immigration bill. 

A spokesman for Reid accused the GOP lawmakers of using the floor proceedings as an excuse to oppose the substance of the legislation. 

“This letter is nothing more than a transparent attempt to suppress the strong bipartisan support for immigration reform,” said Adam Jentleson, 

Reid’s spokesman. 

Reid plans to hold a vote to end debate on the legislation on Thursday. A final vote could take place on Thursday or Friday.

— Published at 6:32 p.m. and last updated at 8:29 p.m.