The Senate advanced historic immigration legislation across the last procedural test Thursday and prepared to vote later in the day to pass the measure offering the prize of U.S. citizenship to millions.
Next up would be the House, where Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has ruled out taking up the Senate bill and said the Republican-controlled chamber would chart its own version of the legislation with a focus on border security. Many House conservatives oppose the path to citizenship for 11 million people here illegally that’s at the heart of the Senate bill.
The 68-32 tally on the final procedural Senate vote was well above the 60 votes required and indicates the bill commands the majority needed to pass the Senate and go to the House. Fourteen Republicans joined 52 Democrats and two independents in voting yes.
The bill is a top priority for President Barack Obama.
As senators cast their votes, several dozen youths wearing turquoise T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase “11 Million Dreams” watched from the spectator gallery. They were from United We Dream, which represents young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children who would get an expedited path to citizenship under the Senate bill, something they’ve been seeking for years.
“It’s landmark legislation that will secure our borders and help 11 million people get right with the law,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on the Senate floor.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., countered that the bill doesn’t ensure true border security since people here illegally can obtain a provisional legal status under the legislation before any security goals are accomplished. “This bill may pass the Senate today, but not with my vote. And in its current form, it won’t become law,” McConnell said.
At its core, the bill includes numerous steps to prevent future illegal immigration, while at the same time it offers a chance at citizenship to the 11 million immigrants now living in the country unlawfully.