Immigration Overhaul Clears Pivotal Vote in Senate

The "border surge" amendment passes by a wide margin

ByABC News
June 24, 2013, 12:30 PM

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2013 -- The Senate voted today to accept an amendment calling for stricter border security as part of comprehensive immigration reform.

The amendment that was at stake was the "deal" sponsored by Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., beefing up border security by an extra $30 billion before any of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants can apply for citizenship.

The vote is significant because it prevents a filibuster and allows the Senate to move on to debating the actual amendment and sets up a vote for the immigration bill itself by Friday.

One Long, Arduous Day on the Road to Overhaul

The margin of victory is also significant. At 67-27, the tally was just short of the 70 votes in favor the Senate Gang of 8 was hoping for, with 15 GOP Senators voting for the amendment.

Corker urged his colleagues on the GOP side of the aisle to vote yes for the amendment, which calls for the completion of 700 miles of fencing along the border, as well as the doubling of border patrol agents from 21,000 officers, which would mean one every 1,000 feet.

"I would say to folks who are going to vote against" the legislation to "please look at this amendment, this is a strengthening amendment ... every Republican that cares about border security and the other side who cares about borders security ... this amendment is great for our nation," he said. "I urge everyone to vote yes."

Public Split on 'Border First' Approach to Immigration

Amomg the ammendment's opponents was Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who said the process should be slowed down

"What's the rush? Why are we proceeding gangbusters?" he said.

"The only explanation many senators…they want something that they can claim 'we are supporting border security'…this bill does not," he said.

Budget Hawks like Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who voted no today, but hasn't said how he will ultimately vote on the final legislation, said there needs to be more debate.

"The biggest deficit that the Senate has in my mind is failure to put teeth into things they know will actually fix the problems in this country," he said. "This bill has no teeth. This bill has $48 billion thrown up against the wall to buy the vote to say we are going to have a secure border, when in fact we will not."

For Gang of 8 member Sen. Chuck Schumer, however the vote was a step forward.

"This vote shows that the pro-immigration forces on both sides of the aisle continue to make progress," the New York Democrat said in a statement to ABC News. "We realize we have a long hard road ahead of us, but this vote puts the wind at our back."

Majority Leader Harry Reid said earlier today on the Senate floor the immigration bill will pass with bipartisan support and called on House Speaker John Boehner to move quickly to get a vote on it.

"The immigration bill before the Senate is another example of bipartisan legislation," the Nevada Democrat said. "The immigration bill will pass this chamber. … When the immigration bill passes, the speaker should bring it up for a vote in the House of Representatives quickly."

Reid added that instead of Boehner trying to "force legislation designed to please only the right wing," he should "do the right thing" and seek bipartisan support in votes.