Immigration Overhaul Clears Pivotal Vote in Senate

The "border surge" amendment passes by a wide margin

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.

The Corker-Hoeven amendment was designed by supporters to collect more than 70 votes in the Senate, a goal by the bipartisan group of authors of the original legislation. Conservative members of the House have said that tougher border measures are necessary for the Senate legislation to pass the House and, ultimately, make its way to the president.

Meanwhile, the public is just as split as Congress on whether full border control is needed before moving forward on legalization, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center and USA Today.

Almost half -- 49 percent -- said legalization could be allowed to happen while improvements were being made on the border, while 43 percent said it should happen only after the border is under control.

The Senate vote today could tie border security to legalization, making certain "triggers" such as the completion of the fence and 90 percent operational control before green cards would be issued to the millions of immigrants living in the shadows.

As the Senate reconvened today, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a new TV and radio ad buy this morning that will last for two weeks.

The seven-figure buy, part of a national campaign launched earlier this year, features conservative leaders, including Gang of 8 members Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., expressing their support for comprehensive immigration overhaul and against the status quo, which they call "de facto amnesty."

Paul announced this weekend, however, that he would vote "no" on the Senate's bipartisan immigration bill because it does not include his amendment that would grant Congress the power to decide whether the nation's southern border is properly secure. He was one of the last senators to cast a vote right before voting ended, it was extended to allow some senators who were delayed flying into Washington to still vote.

He had been previously open to supporting the legislation, even giving a speech in March embracing comprehensive immigration overhaul. But he said Sunday that he could not do so without his amendment, which failed to gain approval last week.

"Without some congressional authority and without border security first, I can't support the final bill," Paul said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"We've thrown a lot of money at a lot of problems in our country," Paul said. "To me, what really tells me that they're serious would be letting Congress vote on whether the border's secure.

"If the people in the country want to be assured that we will not get another 10 million people to come here illegally over the next decade, they have to believe they get a vote through their Congress."

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