Senate votes 68-32 to end debate on immigration; 4 p.m. final vote

The Senate voted 68-32 Thursday to end debate on immigration legislation, clearing the way for the landmark bill to pass later in the day.

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 no Democrats opposed it.

The final vote will take place at 4 p.m.

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Republican Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump steps up attacks on McCain Trump: 'I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be' Santorum: Trump should 'send emails to a therapist' instead of tweeting MORE (Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham: Dems want to abolish Electoral College because they 'want rural America to go away' Overwhelming majority of voters want final Mueller report released: poll Bottom Line MORE (S.C.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate Dems petition Saudi king to release dissidents, US citizen Dem senator wants Trump to extend immigration protections to Venezuelans Juan Williams: Don't rule out impeaching Trump MORE (Fla.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump keeps tight grip on GOP McSally to back Trump on emergency declaration Flake: Biden 'strikes fear in a lot of Republicans' MORE (Ariz.) — the four GOP authors of the legislation — and Sens. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump keeps tight grip on GOP Brexit and exit: A transatlantic comparison Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger MORE (Tenn.), Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteSchultz recruiting GOP insiders ahead of possible 2020 bid Bottom Line US, allies must stand in united opposition to Iran’s bad behavior MORE (N.H.), Jeffery Chiesa (N.J.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care: CDC pushes for expanding HIV testing, treatment | Dem group launches ads attacking Trump on Medicare, Medicaid cuts | Hospitals, insurers spar over surprise bills | O'Rourke under pressure from left on Medicare for all Dem group launches ads attacking Trump's 'hypocrisy on Medicare and Medicaid cuts' Juan Williams: Don't rule out impeaching Trump MORE (Maine), Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchNY's political prosecution of Manafort should scare us all Congress must break its addiction to unjust tax extenders The FDA crackdown on dietary supplements is inadequate MORE (Utah), Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary Oregon Dem top recipient of 2018 marijuana industry money, study finds MORE (Nev.), Mark KirkMark Steven KirkThe global reality behind 'local' problems Dems vow swift action on gun reform next year This week: Trump heads to Capitol Hill MORE (Ill.), John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenDem lawmaker 'confident' bipartisan group will strike deal on border funding Congress in painful start to avoid second shutdown Republicans want Trump to keep out of border talks MORE (N.D.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiJuan Williams: Don't rule out impeaching Trump The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration Overnight Defense: Senate rejects border emergency in rebuke to Trump | Acting Pentagon chief grilled on wall funding | Warren confronts chief over war fund budget MORE (Alaska) and Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderWhite House proposes limits on student loan borrowing as part of higher education reforms The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration Trump issues first veto, warning of 'reckless' resolution MORE (Tenn.) voted to end debate.

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 BoehnerBoehner says it's Democrats' turn for a Tea Party movement House Republicans find silver lining in minority Alaskan becomes longest serving Republican in House history 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 BoehnerBoehner says it's Democrats' turn for a Tea Party movement House Republicans find silver lining in minority Alaskan becomes longest serving Republican in House history 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.

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 Why we need to build gateway now Campaign to draft Democratic challenger to McConnell starts raising funds MORE (N.Y.), the lead Democratic author of the bill, 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 of 7 million illegal immigrants will still be living in the country 10 years from now.

Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRosenstein still working at DOJ despite plans to leave in mid-March Juan Williams: Don't rule out impeaching Trump O'Rourke on impeachment: 2020 vote may be best way to 'resolve' Trump 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 ReidBernie campaign 2.0 - he's in it to win it, this time around Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ Senate confirms Trump court pick despite missing two 'blue slips' 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.

— Russell Berman and Ramsey Cox contributed.