President Barack Obama prodded Congress Tuesday to send him a bill by fall remaking the nation's immigration laws, even as the Senate prepared to cast its first floor votes on the landmark measure opening a door to citizenship for millions.
"Congress needs to act, and that moment is now, " Obama said, surrounded by immigration advocates, business and religious leaders, law enforcement officials and others in the East Room of the White House.
"There's no reason Congress can't get this done by the end of the summer," the president said. "There's no good reason to play procedural games or engage in obstruction just to block the best chance we've had in years to address this problem in a way that's fair to middle class families, business owners and legal immigrants."
The Senate was set to vote Tuesday afternoon on a pair of procedural measures to officially allow debate to move forward on the far-reaching legislation. The measure would boost border security and workplace enforcement, allow tens of thousands new high- and low-skilled workers into the country, and create a 13-year path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally.
Both votes were expected to succeed by comfortable margins, because even some senators with deep misgivings about the immigration bill said the issue deserved a Senate debate.
Ahead of the votes, senators were readying amendments on contentious issues including border security, back taxes and health are coverage. Some Republicans said they were seeking to strengthen enforcement provisions so that they could be comfortable voting for the bill. Other GOP measures were already being dismissed by Democrats as attempts to kill the bill by striking at the fragile compromises at its core.
Meanwhile House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, made his most positive comments to date on the issue, saying Tuesday he thinks there's a good chance that legislation can be signed into law "by the end of the year."
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