Immigration reform bill clears Senate, but faces roadblock in House (+video)
The Senate approved the bill by a 68-to-32 vote Thursday. But House leaders, including those supportive of the immigration reform effort, have said the Senate legislation won't get a hearing in their chamber.
Tense negotiations, months of deliberation, hundreds of amendments, and hours of speeches on the Senate floor culminated in passage of a bipartisan immigration reform bill on Thursday.Skip to next paragraph
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With Vice President Joe Biden presiding over the chamber, 68 senators – 54 Democrats joined by 14 Republicans – rose from their chairs to vote for the most sweeping immigration reform overhaul to pass the chamber since 2006.
“This,” says Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina, a member of the “Gang of Eight” that crafted this year’s bill, “is as good as it gets in the Senate.”
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But one question hung over the heady proceedings: Would it all be in vain?
Without a single House Republican leader signaling an interest in taking up the Senate’s legislation, immigration reform’s road from broadly popular idea to legislation on President Obama’s desk is still as murky as ever.
“To our friends in the House, we ask for your consideration,” said Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona, plaintively, at a news conference after the vote. “We stand ready to sit down and negotiate with you.”
The Senate bill’s limited appeal to the House isn’t for lack of trying to sweeten the deal for conservatives. The legislation carries an amendment struck by Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota that, at an eye-popping cost of more than $40 billion, would nearly double the number of agents stationed along the US-Mexico border and authorize more than 700 miles of border fencing, among other requirements.
“This border-security measure blows my mind,” Senator Graham says. “We’ve practically militarized the border.”
In addition, the Senate bill blocks the undocumented from receiving subsidies under Mr. Obama’s signature health-care law. Those in the United States illegally but seeking to become US citizens must wait 13 years and pay thousands of dollars in fines while being barred from receiving federal benefits.
In another nod to conservatives, none of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country today would be allowed to become permanent residents until each of five “triggers” are hit:
- Hiring the “surge” of more than 19,000 border agents.
- Building the 750 miles of border fencing.
- Establishing a nationwide E-Verify system for validating a person’s work authorization.
- Making operational more than $4 billion in advanced border-security technology.
- Bringing on line an advanced system of tracking entry and exit from the nation’s airports and seaports.