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 SchumerLawyer says Parnas can't attend Senate trial due to ankle bracelet Senate Democrats' super PAC raised million in 2019 As the mental health crisis grows, Puerto Ricans need long-term care 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 LeahyBiden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements Senators ask FDA to crack down on non-dairy milks, cheeses Lawmaker wants Chinese news outlet to register as foreign agent MORE (D-Vt.) declared: “Today is another historic day in the Senate.”

Republican Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainJames Taylor to perform at awards ceremony for Ruth Bader Ginsburg this week Conservative activist wins contest to represent New Hampshire at Republican National Convention Schiff shows clip of McCain in Trump impeachment trial MORE (Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP confident of win on witnesses GOP Foreign Affairs leaders join pushback against potential troop drawdown in Africa Republicans signal renewed confidence they'll avoid witness fight MORE (S.C.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHillicon Valley: UK allows Huawei to build 5G in blow to Trump | Lawmakers warn decision threatens intel sharing | Work on privacy bill inches forward | Facebook restricts travel to China amid virus Lawmakers warn US, UK intel sharing at risk after Huawei decision GOP lawmaker: UK-Huawei deal could force US to 'reexamine' intelligence-sharing partnership MORE (Fla.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Hill's 12:30 Report: House managers to begin opening arguments on day two Flake: Republicans don't speak out against Trump 'because they want to keep their jobs' GOP senator calls CNN reporter a 'liberal hack' when asked about Parnas materials MORE (Ariz.) — the four GOP authors of the legislation — and Sens. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerRNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (Tenn.), Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteGOP fears Trump backlash in suburbs Trump makes rare trip to Clinton state, hoping to win back New Hampshire Key endorsements: A who's who in early states MORE (N.H.), Jeffery Chiesa (N.J.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP confident of win on witnesses Republicans signal renewed confidence they'll avoid witness fight Trump's team rests, calls for quick end to trial MORE (Maine), Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchKey Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock Trump awards Medal of Freedom to racing industry icon Roger Penske Trump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals MORE (Utah), Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerLobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play This week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report MORE (Nev.), Mark KirkMark Steven KirkBiden campaign releases video to explain 'what really happened in Ukraine' Why Republicans are afraid to call a key witness in the impeachment inquiry Ex-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR MORE (Ill.), John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenBottom Line The Hill's Morning Report — Schiff: Clear evidence of a quid pro quo Trump steps up GOP charm offensive as impeachment looms MORE (N.D.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGOP confident of win on witnesses Republicans signal renewed confidence they'll avoid witness fight Trump's team rests, calls for quick end to trial MORE (Alaska) and Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderGOP confident of win on witnesses Republicans signal renewed confidence they'll avoid witness fight The Hill's Morning Report - Bolton charge ups ante in witness showdown 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 PaulTrump allies throw jabs at Bolton over book's claims Overnight Defense: White House threatens to veto House Iran bills | Dems 'frustrated' after Iran briefing | Lawmakers warn US, UK intel sharing at risk after Huawei decision Foreign Relations Democrats 'deeply frustrated' after Iran briefing MORE (R-Ky.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz scolds reporter who brought up his daughters Can Democrats flip the Texas House? Today's result will provide a clue Republicans show little enthusiasm for impeachment witness swap 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 PryorTom Cotton's only Democratic rival quits race in Arkansas Medicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation MORE (Ark.), Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuA decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth Congress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ MORE (La.) and Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganGOP braces for Democratic spending onslaught in battle for Senate Democrats will win back the Senate majority in 2020, all thanks to President Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Dems shift strategy on impeachment vote 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 BoehnerA time for war, a time for peace — and always a time to defend America Esper's chief of staff to depart at end of January Soleimani killing deepens distrust between Trump, Democrats 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 BoehnerA time for war, a time for peace — and always a time to defend America Esper's chief of staff to depart at end of January Soleimani killing deepens distrust between Trump, Democrats 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 SessionsLawmaker wants Chinese news outlet to register as foreign agent Trump-aligned group launches ad campaign hitting Doug Jones on impeachment ICE subpoenas Denver law enforcement: report 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 ReidTensions between McConnell and Schumer run high as trial gains momentum The Trumpification of the federal courts Trump to rally evangelicals after critical Christianity Today editorial 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 GrassleyOvernight Energy: Democrats unveil draft climate bill | Plan aims for carbon neutrality by 2050 | GOP senators press IRS on electric vehicle tax credit GOP senator: John Bolton should go public with what he knows GOP senators press IRS on enforcement of electric vehicle tax credit 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.