Senate panel passes immigration reform bill: how Republicans helped shape it (+video)
The immigration reform bill, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 13-to-5 vote Tuesday night, received some tweaks aimed at attracting more GOP support during its next key vote on the Senate floor.
The Senate’s comprehensive immigration-reform legislation marches on.Skip to next paragraph
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A bill that would be the most sweeping rewrite of America’s immigration laws in two decades not only passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 13-to-5 vote Tuesday night, but also sustained no dramatic alterations to the bipartisan framework fashioned by the bill’s authors, the “Gang of Eight.”
The bill did receive, however, a slew of tweaks and adjustments aimed at attracting more GOP support during its next key vote on the floor of the US Senate. Tuesday’s vote brought commentary from several key Republicans that augur well for the bill’s prospects.
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“I appreciate the work of the Senate Judiciary Committee in taking the bill my colleagues and I introduced in April as a starting point for debate and making improvements to it over the past few weeks,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R) of Florida in a statement after the bill’s passage. “Through an extensive, open and transparent process, they have made real improvements to the bill.”
The four “Gang” members on the Judiciary committee – Charles Schumer (D) of New York, Richard Durbin (D) of Illinois, Jeff Flake (R) of Arizona, and Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina – were joined by the eight other Democrats on the panel and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah in voting affirmatively.
Senator Hatch’s support of the bill in committee came after he and Senator Schumer hashed out a deal on a handful of amendments that Hatch wanted regarding high-skilled workers, long of interest to the veteran Utahn. These measures would make it easier for technology companies and others to hire the talented but temporary workers that come through the H-1B program.
Hatch also secured a compromise amendment requiring a test of a biometric entry-exit system at America’s 10 largest airports in the next two years, followed by an expanded test at the 30 largest US airports four years later. A biometric system, which could capture a foreign traveler’s fingerprints or scan his or her iris, was a frequently cited desire of Republican members of the panel.
While Hatch’s final support of the bill will be contingent on another series of amendments he’ll offer on the Senate floor, the committee adopted other conservative changes to the bill that may accentuate its appeal to Republicans on the Senate floor. These changes include the stipulation that the Department of Homeland Security must turn back or apprehend 90 percent of would-be border crossers along the entire Southern border – not just in high-risk sectors as the bill originally required – before the nation’s millions of illegal immigrants can become citizens.
The changes were only a handful of the more than 200 amendments that the committee considered over five days and more than 30 hours of debate and votes. About a third of the 141 changes that were approved came from the panel’s conservative senators.