6/28: In Strong Bipartisan Vote, Senate Passes Immigration Reform Bill (NIF)
On June 27, the Senate voted to pass the sweeping immigration reform legislation introduced in April by the bi-partisan “gang of eight.” The vote on final passage was 68 to 32. Majority leader Reid underscored the importance of the vote by having Senators vote from their desks, while the clerk called the roll— a formality generally reserved only for the most momentous votes. Vice President Joe Biden presided.
The final vote marked the end of several procedural hurdles in the final days leading up to the vote. The first hurdle was raised by Senator Vitter (R-La.). He had raised several “budget points of order” against the bill, asserting that spending included in the bill violated spending limits set in the Senate’s budget bill. There was a vote on a motion to waive all budget points of order, and that motion was agreed to in a vote of 68 to 30.
Immediately following that vote, there was a vote to accept the Corker Hoeven amendment to the bill that was reported out of the Judiciary Committee. That amendment was agreed to in a vote of 69 to 29.
That vote was followed by another cloture vote, to end debate on the bill, as amended, that came out of the Judiciary Committee. The motion to invoke cloture was agreed to in a vote of 67 to 31 (with 60 needed).
[A little Senate arcania (which I am oversimplifying): Getting to the final vote on the bill required a complicated sequence of voting on substitutes to the bill, each requiring a cloture vote to protect it from a filibuster, with 30 hours required between each cloture vote and vote on the amendment itself. First, the Corker-Hoeven package had to clear the hurdles. Next up was the Judiciary Committee bill which the Corker-Hoeven package amended. Finally, the original bill, which was amended by the substitute that came out of the Judiciary Committee.]
After these procedural votes, Senators continued to negotiate which amendments out of the dozens filed might still get a vote on the floor. Late in the afternoon, Senator Reid came to the floor with a list of 17 Republican amendments and 15 Democrat amendment that he asked consent to bring up for votes. As has been the case for the past two weeks, opponents of the bill objected.
On Thursday, there was one more effort by Senator Reid to bring up a package of non-controversial amendments. Again, a bill opponent objected, and the amendments were not considered. Coincidently, that same opponent of the legislation was speaking on the Senate floor at that time, complaining about the lack of amendments considered during the Senate floor debate.
The Senate then voted on the final two procedural hurdles before final passage:
- The vote on the Judiciary Committee substitute amendment to the bill was agreed to in a vote of 68 to 32.
- A vote to invoke cloture on the underlying bill, setting up the final vote, was also agreed to in a vote of 68 to 32.
The final vote took place before a packed Senate Gallery, with a few dozen DREAMers looking on. It was a remarkable day for DREAM advocates (who would gain a faster track to citizenship in the Senate’s reform bill). Three years ago, a minority in the Senate was successful in blocking passage of the DREAM Act. This time around, while opponents of the legislation were able to prevent most amendments from being considered, they ultimately were unsuccessful in persuading senators to vote against this bill. Opponents did not even manage to delay the bill beyond the goal of having it pass the Senate by the July 4 recess. The procedural votes all indicated strong bipartisan support, and that is what the bill got in the end.
Now pressure will be on the House to act. Anti-reformers are in a stronger position in the House, but the eyes of the nation are now focused on House leaders.
For now, though, advocates around the country can celebrate the fact that all of their hard work, coupled with the efforts of new constituencies who are demanding action from Congress, has had an impact.==============================================================================
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