The Senate voted to advance the most significant revisions to U.S. immigration law in a generation, clearing the way for final passage as soon as Thursday.
By a vote of 67-31, with 60 needed, senators voted to advance a bipartisan bill that includes a path to citizenship for as many as 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Senators also adopted a related amendment to bolster security at the U.S.-Mexico border by a 69-29 vote.
“A permanent compromise solution to our dysfunctional system is really in sight,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said today. “It is my hope that our colleagues in the House will follow the Senate’s lead and work to pass bipartisan reform and do it now.”
The Senate is concluding its third week of debate on the immigration legislation, which seeks to balance Democrats’ goal of granting citizenship rights with Republicans’ demand for stricter border controls.
The costliest plan ever for border security adopted today was crafted at the insistence of key Republicans, including bill author Marco Rubio of Florida and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. It would double the size of the U.S. Border Patrol and require an additional 350 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, at a price tag its backers say will reach $38 billion.
“This is about making sure we secure the border and we do it in an objective and verifiable way,” said Senator John Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican who crafted the amendment with Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican.
For some Republicans, including Iowa’s Charles Grassley, the security amendment did not go far enough to allay concerns over whether the border would be secure enough to deter a future wave of illegal immigration.
“As is often the case here in Washington, the solution always seems to be to just throw money at a problem,” Grassley said. “This grand compromise measures the success of the amendment by the amount of money spent, not by outcomes.”
U.S. immigration law hasn’t been significantly altered since 1986. A 2007 immigration rewrite died in the Senate and wasn’t considered in the House. The prospects for passage of a bipartisan bill are greater this time because some Republicans see the issue as a way to boost the party’s appeal with Hispanic voters.
Republicans are trying to reconnect with Hispanic voters after President Barack Obama won 71 percent of the votes cast by the fast-growing voter group in the 2012 election.
Still, the bill’s prospects in the Republican-controlled House, where opposition to a citizenship path runs deep, are uncertain.
The House Judiciary Committee, led by Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte, is considering individual pieces of legislation involving aspects of immigration policy.
House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said last week that he won’t bring an immigration proposal to a vote unless a majority of the chamber’s 234 Republicans support it.
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