Senate approves immigration bill 68-32

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.

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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 not a single Democrat opposed it, a significant victory for Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerProtecting our judiciary must be a priority in the 116th Congress Baldwin's Trump plays 'Deal or No Deal' with shutdown on 'Saturday Night Live' Sunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal 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 Joseph LeahyBuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president GOP insiders knock their depictions in new Dick Cheney biopic ‘Vice’ Barr: It would be a crime for president to pardon someone in exchange for their silence MORE (D-Vt.) declared: “Today is another historic day in the Senate.”

Republican Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGrassley to test GOP on lowering drug prices Listen, learn and lead: Congressional newcomers should leave the extremist tactics at home Overnight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal MORE (Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies Barr’s first task as AG: Look at former FBI leaders’ conduct Debate builds over making Mueller report public MORE (S.C.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRussian oligarch, allies retain key ownership in company after sanctions lifted: report Senate GOP eyes 'nuclear option' for Trump nominees next week Washington fears new threat from 'deepfake' videos MORE (Fla.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeSchumer recruiting top-notch candidate for McCain Senate seat The Hill's Morning Report — Trump eyes wall money options as shutdown hits 21 days Poll: Sanders most popular senator, Flake least MORE (Ariz.) — the four GOP authors of the legislation — and Sens. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerThe Memo: Romney moves stir worries in Trump World Senate GOP names first female members to Judiciary panel Former US special envoy to anti-ISIS coalition joins Stanford University as lecturer MORE (Tenn.), Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteFive possible successors to Mattis Mattis resigns, says views aren't in line with Trump's Election Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms MORE (N.H.), Jeffery Chiesa (N.J.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback The Memo: Concern over shutdown grows in Trump World Overnight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal MORE (Maine), Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchPhRMA CEO 'hopeful' Trump officials will back down on drug pricing move Live coverage: Trump AG pick grilled on Mueller probe at confirmation hearing Trump praises RNC chairwoman after she criticizes her uncle Mitt Romney MORE (Utah), Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerTrump’s shifting Cabinet to introduce new faces Trump's most memorable insults and nicknames of 2018 Progressive strategist says changing demographics will help Dems MORE (Nev.), Mark KirkMark Steven KirkDems vow swift action on gun reform next year This week: Trump heads to Capitol Hill Trump attending Senate GOP lunch Tuesday MORE (Ill.), John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenDems struggling to help low-wage contractors harmed by shutdown Trump to address nation on wall Here are the lawmakers who will forfeit their salaries during the shutdown MORE (N.D.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiTrump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback The Memo: Concern over shutdown grows in Trump World Kaine to force Senate to hold rare Saturday session amid shutdown MORE (Alaska) and Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderGrassley to test GOP on lowering drug prices McConnell blocks House bill to reopen government for second time Senators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks 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 PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulCivil rights group marks MLK Day with call for 'Trump card' national ID Pressure mounts for Trump to reconsider Syria withdrawal House Republicans call for moving State of the Union to Senate chamber MORE (R-Ky.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGroup aiming to draft Beto O’Rourke unveils first 2020 video Howard Dean looking for a 'younger, newer' Democratic nominee in 2020 Congress can stop the war on science 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 Lunsford PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (Ark.), Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuLobbying world Former New Orleans mayor: It's not my 'intention' to run for president Dems grasp for way to stop Trump's Supreme Court pick MORE (La.) and Kay HaganKay Ruthven Hagan GOP, Dems locked in fight over North Carolina fraud probe 2020 Dems compete for top campaign operatives Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation 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 Andrew BoehnerBreaking the impasse on shutdown, border security McCarthy, allies retaliate against Freedom Caucus leader House vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King 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 BoehnerBreaking the impasse on shutdown, border security McCarthy, allies retaliate against Freedom Caucus leader House vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King 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 SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsGraham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies Martin, Bobby and the will to change Overnight Health Care: Thousands more migrant children may have been separated | Senate rejects bill to permanently ban federal funds for abortion | Women's March to lobby for 'Medicare for All' 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 ReidSenate Republicans eye rules change to speed Trump nominees Harry Reid knocks Ocasio-Cortez's tax proposal: Fast 'radical change' doesn't work Overnight Defense: Trump rejects Graham call to end shutdown | Coast Guard on track to miss Tuesday paychecks | Dems eye Trump, Russia probes | Trump talks with Erdogan after making threat to Turkey's economy 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 GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyCongress should stop tariff power grab, bring balance to U.S. trade policy Graham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies Grassley to test GOP on lowering drug prices 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.