Senate votes 82-15 in first step to debate immigration reform

The Senate voted 82-15 on Tuesday to end debate on a motion to proceed to a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Senators are expected to vote in an hour to proceed to the bill, which will launch a weeks-long floor debate on immigration reform.

Three of the four Republican members of the Gang of Eight — Sens. Marco RubioMarco RubioCruz wins bulk of delegate spots at Va. convention Trump seeks approval from foreign policy experts, but hits snags Many Republicans uninterested in being Trump’s VP: report MORE (R-Fla.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamSunday shows preview: Cruz pulls out all the stops ahead of Indiana Many Republicans uninterested in being Trump’s VP: report Graham: Iran ‘giving Obama the diplomatic finger’ MORE (R-S.C.) and Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeMany Republicans uninterested in being Trump’s VP: report Senate confirms Obama's long-stalled ambassador to Mexico McCain fundraiser faces felony drug charges in Arizona MORE (R-Ariz.) — were joined by more than 20 other GOP senators in voting to advance the debate. Sen. John McCainJohn McCainExperts warn weapons gap is shrinking between US, Russia and China McCain delivers his own foreign policy speech Republicans who vow to never back Trump MORE (R-Ariz.) supports the measure, but missed the vote. That strong support is expected to dwindle if certain amendments aren't agreed to.

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"As an elected leader in my party, it’s my view that we at least need to try to improve a situation that, as far as I can tell, very few people believe is working well either for our own citizens, or for those around the world who aspire to become Americans," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellOvernight Finance: House rejects financial adviser rule; Obama rebukes Sanders on big banks Senators roll out changes to criminal justice bill Sanders is most popular senator, according to constituent poll MORE (R-Ky.) said ahead of the vote Tuesday. "I’ll vote to debate it and for the opportunity to amend it, but in the days ahead, there will need to be major changes to this bill if it’s going to become law."

McConnell and Sens. John CornynJohn CornynFirst US Zika death reported in Puerto Rico Senate confirms Obama's long-stalled ambassador to Mexico Overnight Healthcare: Medicare fight looms on Capitol Hill MORE (Texas), Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteGOP women push Trump on VP pick John Bolton PAC pours more cash into GOP campaigns Dem campaign arm: Poll numbers slipping for vulnerable Republicans MORE (N.H.), Deb FischerDeb FischerSenate panel clears 'Internet of Things' bill Democrats block energy spending bill over Iran amendment GOP lawmakers vie for convention power MORE (Neb.), Rob PortmanRob PortmanJohn Bolton PAC pours more cash into GOP campaigns Dem campaign arm: Poll numbers slipping for vulnerable Republicans GOP senator jokingly calls Sherrod Brown 'Mr. Vice President' MORE (Ohio), John ThuneJohn ThuneAir traffic control plan faces tough fight ahead GOP blasts Obama for slow economic growth Overnight Tech: Business data deals on FCC agenda MORE (S.D.), Orrin HatchOrrin HatchSupreme Court wrestles with corruption law IRS: Annual unpaid tax liability was 8B Hatch asks Treasury for memo that decreases transparency of tax rules MORE (Utah), Jeff Chiesa (N.J.), Roger WickerRoger WickerOvernight Healthcare: Senate making headway on Zika funding DNC head: Republicans ‘dropping like flies’ from convention Campaign chief to vulnerables: Stay away from GOP convention MORE (Miss.), Thad CochranThad CochranFirst US Zika death reported in Puerto Rico Overnight Healthcare: Medicare fight looms on Capitol Hill Senate GOP hardening stance against emergency funding for Zika MORE (Miss.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderDemocrats block energy spending bill over Iran amendment Overnight Finance: Puerto Rico pressure builds; Big tariff vote Wednesday Senate votes to increase wind energy funding MORE (Tenn.), John HoevenJohn HoevenThis week: Congress on track to miss Puerto Rico deadline Week ahead: Senate looks to wrap up energy, water spending bill Overnight Energy: Senate blocks GOP bill targeting water rule MORE (N.D.), Richard BurrRichard BurrThe Trail 2016: The establishment comes around Intel leaders push controversial encryption draft Moulitsas: 2016 dim for GOP MORE (N.C.), Rand PaulRand PaulFive ways Trump will attack Clinton Carter pledges probe of sex assault testimony Rand Paul wants to legalize cooperation MORE (Ky.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsLarry Wilmore, Sting party in DC ahead of WHCD GOP women push Trump on VP pick Sanders is most popular senator, according to constituent poll MORE (Maine), Jerry MoranJerry MoranOvernight Finance: McConnell fast-tracks IRS bills; WH pushes free college tuition The Trail 2016: New Trump same as the old GOP lawmaker passes on Kansas Senate primary challenge MORE (Kan.), Roy BluntRoy BluntOvernight Healthcare: Medicare fight looms on Capitol Hill Senate GOP hardening stance against emergency funding for Zika Senate Dems accuse GOP of walking away from Zika deal MORE (Mo.), Dan CoatsDan CoatsInd. Senate candidate paid relative 0K for campaign work GOP blasts Obama for slow economic growth GOP Senate candidate failed to report private plane trip from Ind. supporter MORE (Ind.), Dean HellerDean HellerCarter pledges probe of sex assault testimony Democrats block energy spending bill over Iran amendment Senate votes to increase wind energy funding MORE (Nev.), Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonSenators urge White House to speed cyber policy updates Mellman: Fissures and factions Encryption commission bill picks up more backers MORE (Wis.), Bob CorkerBob CorkerTrump seeks approval from foreign policy experts, but hits snags The Trail 2016: The establishment comes around GOP warms to Trump MORE (Tenn.), Mike JohannsMike JohannsTo buy a Swiss company, ChemChina must pass through Washington Republican senator vows to block nominees over ObamaCare co-ops Revisiting insurance regulatory reform in a post-crisis world MORE (Neb.), Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonSenate approves new Veterans Affairs watchdog Overnight Regulation: Republicans move to block financial adviser rule Senate Republicans move to block financial adviser rule MORE (Ga.) and Saxby ChamblissSaxby ChamblissWyden hammers CIA chief over Senate spying Cruz is a liability Inside Paul Ryan’s brain trust MORE (Ga.) were the Republicans who voted to advance the bill.

The bipartisan group of eight senators, known as the Gang of Eight, introduced S. 744, which would create a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country, toughen border security, create a guest worker program and boost high-skilled immigration.

“There are 11 million reasons to pass common-sense immigration reform that mends our broken system — 11 million stories of heartbreak and suffering that should motivate Congress to act,” Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidSatanists balk at Cruz comparison Cory Booker is Clinton secret weapon Overnight Energy: Dems block energy spending bill for second day MORE (D-Nev.) said Tuesday. “The bipartisan proposal before the Senate takes important steps to strengthen border security. It also makes crucial improvements to our broken legal immigration system.”

Democrats have praised part of the bill that would grant citizenship to young people, known as Dreamers, who were brought to the country by their parents without legal documentation.

But some Republicans have complained that the legislation would provide amnesty over 10 years for the nearly 11 million residents in the country illegally before strengthening border enforcement. 

The bill makes permanent legal residence contingent on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) having 100 percent situational awareness at every segment of the southern border and a 90 percent apprehension rate. But some GOP senators have suggested that the bill gives DHS too much say over whether the border is secure, leaving Congress powerless to stop the amnesty program if security measures aren’t met.

Sens. Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsTrump seeks approval from foreign policy experts, but hits snags Many Republicans uninterested in being Trump’s VP: report GOP warms to Trump MORE (R-Ala.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyOvernight Defense: House panel approves 0B defense bill Carter pledges probe of sex assault testimony Grassley: Carter emails contained 'sensitive' information MORE (R-Iowa) have said the bill is similar to the last immigration reform measure in 1986 because it “legalizes first and enforces later.”

“In other words the federal government has always said the right things to the American people, but it has never lived up to its promises,” Cornyn said Tuesday. “This is doable, but we need a leverage to compel the bureaucracy and Congress to get the result the American people want.”

Sessions added that because of the way the legislation is written, he believes Gang of Eight members aren’t really serious about border security.

Sens. Dick DurbinDick DurbinElizabeth Warren stumps, raises funds for Duckworth Senators roll out changes to criminal justice bill Let the Democratic veepstakes begin MORE (D-Ill.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) argued that wasn’t true, pointing out that the bill authorizes more funding for border security and fencing. 

“I know it’s hard to do, but I refuse to accept the idea that the most power country in the world — the country that put a man on the moon — is incapable of securing our border,” Rubio said.

Democratic Sens. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerCruz's dad: Trump 'would be worse than Hillary Clinton' With Ryan’s blessing, lawmakers press ahead with tax reform talks Big business will never appease the Left MORE (D-N.Y.), Durbin, Robert MenendezRobert MenendezSenate confirms Obama's long-stalled ambassador to Mexico Democrats block energy spending bill over Iran amendment Senate close to voting on Mexico ambassador MORE (D-N.J.) and Michael BennetMichael BennetGOP Senate candidate wins right to be on Colorado ballot EPA ozone rule looms large in swing state 2 Colorado Senate candidates fail to qualify for ballot MORE (D-Colo.) are also part of the Gang of Eight.

This story was updated at 3:28 p.m.

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