WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate voted Tuesday to jump-start a
stalled immigration measure to legalize millions of unlawful
President Bush said the bill offered a "historic opportunity
for Congress to act," and appeared optimistic about its passage by
The pivotal test-vote was 64-35 to revive the divisive
legislation. It still faces formidable obstacles in the Senate,
including bitter opposition by GOP conservatives and attempts by
some waverers in both parties to revise its key elements.
Supporters needed 60 votes to scale procedural hurdles and
return to the bill. A similar test-vote earlier this month found
just 45 supporters, only seven of them Republicans. This time, 24
Republicans joined 39 Democrats and independent Sen. Joseph I.
Lieberman of Connecticut, to back moving ahead with the bill.
Opposing the move were 25 Republicans, nine Democrats and
independent Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., an architect of the bill, said
he was proud of the vote, calling it "a major step forward for our
national security, for our economy, and for our humanity."
"We did the right thing today because we know the American
people sent us here to act on our most urgent problems. We know
they will not stand for small political factions getting in the
way," Kennedy said in a statement following the vote.
Tuesday's outcome was far from conclusive, however. The measure
still must overcome another make-or-break vote as early as Thursday
that will also require the backing of 60 senators. And there is no
guarantee that it will ultimately attract even the simple majority
it needs to pass.
The Senate was preparing to begin voting as early as Tuesday
afternoon on some two dozen amendments that have the potential to
either sap its support or draw new backers.
Republicans and Democrats alike are deeply conflicted over the
measure, which also creates a temporary worker program, strengthens
border security and institutes a new system for weeding out illegal
immigrants from workplaces.
Bush has mounted an unusually personal effort to defuse
Republican opposition to the bill, appearing at a Senate party
lunch earlier this month and dispatching two Cabinet secretaries to
take up near-constant residence on Capitol Hill to push the
He called the measure a deal worthy of support. "In a good
piece of legislation like this, and a difficult piece of
legislation like this, one side doesn't get everything they want,"
he told business leaders and representatives of religious, Hispanic
and agricultural communities earlier Tuesday. "It's a careful
The vote suggested that key senators and White House officials
had succeeded - at least for now - in bargaining with skeptical
lawmakers for a second chance to pass the bill. Several senators
who have been promised votes on their amendments, including Sens.
Kit Bond, R-Mo., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Norm Coleman, R-Mo., Pete
Domenici, R-N.M., John Ensign, R-Nev., and Jim Webb, D-Va.,
switched their votes to support moving ahead with the measure.
Still, after a chaotic several weeks in which the legislation
survived several near-death experiences, it remained buffeted by
As senators were preparing for the showdown vote Tuesday
morning, House Republicans meeting privately on the other side of
the Capitol were plotting to register their opposition through a
party resolution. The measure never saw a vote for procedural
reasons, but an attempt to kill it failed overwhelmingly, signaling
deep GOP skepticism.
"It's clear there's a large number of the House Republicans who
have serious concerns with the Senate bill," said Rep. John
Boehner, R-Ohio, the minority leader.
Several of the Republican amendments slated for upcoming Senate
votes would make the bill tougher on unlawful immigrants, while
those by Democrats would make it easier on those seeking to
immigrate legally based solely on family ties.
Particularly worrisome to supporters, including the Bush
administration, is a bipartisan amendment by Sens. Charles
Grassley, R-Iowa, Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Max Baucus, D-Mont.,
that would change the bill's new program for weeding out illegal
employees from U.S. workplaces.
The bill is S 1639
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)>