The Senate has passed historic immigration legislation offering the hope of American citizenship to millions, while promising a military-style surge to secure the border.
The vote was 68-32, eight more than needed to send the measure to the House. Prospects there are not nearly as good and many conservatives are opposed.
Vice President Joe Biden presided, and senators cast their votes from their desks, rising to announce their position, both steps reserved for momentous votes. There was one moment of levity: freshman Republican Jerry Moran of Kansas first voted "yes" and then quickly said "no!" as Senators chuckled. He asked again to make sure his nay vote was recorded in the no column.
Republicans Voting 'Yes'
Senate Democrats all voted for the immigration reform bill, S.744, but Republicans were split. The following voted in favor:
|Lamar Alexander (TN)|
|Kelly Ayotte (NH)|
|Jeff Chiesa (NJ)|
|Susan Collins (ME)|
|Bob Corker (TN)|
|Jeff Flake (AZ)|
|Lindsey Graham (SC)|
|Orrin G. Hatch (UT)|
|Dean Heller (NV)|
|John Hoeven (ND)|
|Mark Kirk (IL)|
|John McCain (AZ)|
|Lisa Murkowski (AK)|
|Marco Rubio (FL)|
Up in the gallery, dozens of young "Dreamers" — students brought to the US as children by their parents — wore bright turquoise and salmon colored tee shirts and leaned forward as the votes were tallied. Despite the warning that expressions of emotion "are not permitted," they began chanting, "yes we can" as the vote was announced.
California Democrat Dianne Feinstein says the measure will be good for the Golden State, home to nearly one in four undocumented immigrants in the US. "People come out of the shadows now," she says. "They have to do certain things, but if they do them, they become a legal permanent resident, and they’re on their way to a green card."
California’s junior Senator, Democrat Barbara Boxer calls it a win/win for both the country and those undocumented who played by the rules and have a clear path to citizenship. Boxer became emotional as she described how America means “everything” to immigrants – like her late mother, who wrapped her naturalization certificate in Saran Wrap and stored it in her jewelry box. “More important than anything else that was in there.”
The focus now shifts to the House of Representatives, where Speaker John Boehner again said Thursday he won't bring a bill to the floor without a majority of Republicans in support.
Speaker Boehner says the House will only vote on immigration legislation that's moved through committee and reflects the "will of our majority." He says the House is not going to "take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes."
The House Judiciary Committee has been passing a series of tough GOP-sponsored immigration bills without Democratic support. Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles, part of a bipartisan group of seven House members working on immigration, rejects the piecemeal approach and says there's "no way" to do this with just Republicans.
"We work for the people, not a party," he said. "And so if you are the governing majority in the House of Representatives, you have an obligation to work on behalf of the people."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi hinted that a piecemeal approach might be acceptable to get something to take to a conference committee. "We know it has to be a compromise, we know who is in the majority," she said. But she added, "if you want our votes, it has to be something that our members can support." Speaker Boehner says even a compromise bill hammered out in a conference committee must still get a majority of the majority support before he'll bring it to the floor.
Senator Boxer takes Boehner's statement with a grain of salt. “I’ve seen John Boehner posture before and relent,” she says on the Violence Against Women Act and the highway bill. Boehner has said passing an immigration bill is necessary for the "health of the Party."
Boehner encouraged the so-called House "Gang of Seven" to continue working on a bipartisan proposal. The 500-page bill has been drafted and is ready to be introduced, pending review by some members.
Boehner says House Republicans will debate immigration amongst themselves when they return from the July 4th recess.
This story has been updated.