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 RubioRubio apologized to Trump for 'small hands' crack Sunday shows preview: Bernie soldiers on Fla. Senate candidate bashes Rubio MORE (R-Fla.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamSenators to Obama: Make 'timely' call on Afghan troops levels Senate amendments could sink email privacy compromise Trump: Romney 'walks like a penguin' MORE (R-S.C.) and Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeDem senators call for sanctions on Congo McCain urges sports leagues to return 'paid patriotism' money Overnight Tech: House GOP launches probe into phone, internet subsidies MORE (R-Ariz.) — were joined by more than 20 other GOP senators in voting to advance the debate. Sen. John McCainJohn McCainWhy a power grid attack is a nightmare scenario Senate fight brews over Afghan visas Trump: Illegal immigrants treated better than veterans 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 McConnellHillary's ObamaCare problem In House GOP, Ryan endorsement of Trump seen as inevitable McConnell: Trump White House will have ‘constraints’ 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 CornynClinton email headache is about to get worse Overnight Tech: House GOP launches probe into phone, internet subsidies Senators hope for deal soon on mental health bill MORE (Texas), Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteSenators to Obama: Make 'timely' call on Afghan troops levels Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief fears sequestration's return Senate GOP ties Iran sanctions fight to defense bill MORE (N.H.), Deb FischerDeb FischerSenators to Obama: Make 'timely' call on Afghan troops levels Senate Republicans ask Trump to soften his tone Skittish GOP to Trump: Drop the insults MORE (Neb.), Rob PortmanRob PortmanJuan Williams: Electoral map looks grim for Trump McConnell touts 'Senate squad' in Wes Anderson-style video Liberal super-PAC hits Johnson for supporting Trump MORE (Ohio), John ThuneJohn ThuneHow airport security lines got so bad Self-driving cars: The next great leap in automotive safety Overnight Tech: Senate panel poised to advance email privacy bill MORE (S.D.), Orrin HatchOrrin HatchTen senators ask FCC to delay box plan An affordable housing solution both parties can get behind Puerto Rico debt relief faces serious challenges in Senate MORE (Utah), Jeff Chiesa (N.J.), Roger WickerRoger WickerSenate votes to block USDA catfish inspections GOP senators: Obama bathroom guidance is 'not appropriate' Senate Republicans ask Trump to soften his tone MORE (Miss.), Thad CochranThad CochranSenate panel passes 4.5B defense bill Senate votes to block USDA catfish inspections GOP senators: Obama bathroom guidance is 'not appropriate' MORE (Miss.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderSenate backs equal pay for female soccer players Overnight Healthcare: Momentum on mental health? | Zika bills head to conference | Only 10 ObamaCare co-ops left Overnight Regulation: GOP slams new Obama education rules MORE (Tenn.), John HoevenJohn HoevenSenate panel approves funding boost for TSA Overnight Energy: Senate Dems block energy, water bill a third time Bison declared national mammal MORE (N.D.), Richard BurrRichard BurrThe Trail 2016: Hell breaks loose Burr, Ross in statistical dead heat in NC Senate race Senate panel advances spy policy bill, after House approves its own version MORE (N.C.), Rand PaulRand PaulLibertarian ticket will get super-PAC support Overnight Energy: Trump outlines 'America First' energy plan in North Dakota Overnight Regulation: GOP slams new Obama education rules MORE (Ky.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsWhy a power grid attack is a nightmare scenario GOP lawmaker: 'Republicans were wrong’ to block Garland Senate passes broad spending bill with .1B in Zika funds MORE (Maine), Jerry MoranJerry MoranGOP senators propose sending ISIS fighters to Gitmo Passing the Kelsey Smith Act will help law enforcement save lives Overnight Defense: VA chief 'deeply' regrets Disney remark; Senate fight brews over Gitmo MORE (Kan.), Roy BluntRoy BluntSenators hope for deal soon on mental health bill Cruz: VA secretary 'should resign' Overnight Defense: VA chief 'deeply' regrets Disney remark; Senate fight brews over Gitmo MORE (Mo.), Dan CoatsDan CoatsDems to GOP: Cancel Memorial Day break GOP senators: Obama bathroom guidance is 'not appropriate' Overnight Defense: House panel unveils 5B defense spending bill MORE (Ind.), Dean HellerDean HellerLake Mead hits record low water level Tough choice for vulnerable GOP senators: Embrace or reject Trump Press: Forget about GOP unity in 2016 MORE (Nev.), Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonClinton emails dominate Sunday shows GOP senator: Did Clinton email setup play a role in Russian invasions? Sunday shows preview: Bernie soldiers on MORE (Wis.), Bob CorkerBob CorkerRubio: 'Maybe' would run for Senate seat if 'good friend' wasn't McConnell-allied group: We'll back Rubio if he runs for reelection The Trail 2016: Interleague play 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 IsaksonGOP senators: Obama bathroom guidance is 'not appropriate' Amateur theatrics: An insult to Africa Dem senator blocks push to tie 'gun ban' to spending bill 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 ReidHillary's ObamaCare problem Sanders tests Wasserman Schultz Nearly 400 House bills stuck in Senate limbo 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 SessionsSenate fight brews over Afghan visas Sessions: Ryan 'needs to' endorse Trump soon GOP senator: 'I would consider’ being Trump’s VP MORE (R-Ala.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleySenate fight brews over Afghan visas Clinton email headache is about to get worse Ten senators ask FCC to delay box plan 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 DurbinDems to Clinton: Ignore Trump on past scandals How airport security lines got so bad Dem senators call for sanctions on Congo 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 SchumerSchumer touts policy victories over Obama administration Puerto Rico debt relief faces serious challenges in Senate Overnight Healthcare: House, Senate on collision course over Zika funding MORE (D-N.Y.), Durbin, Robert MenendezRobert MenendezDems pressure Obama on vow to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees Lobbying World This week: GOP lawmakers reckon with Trump MORE (D-N.J.) and Michael BennetMichael BennetDems see political gold in fight over Trump's taxes GOP Senate hopeful wants to go beyond Trump's Muslim ban Lawmakers push to elevate Cyber Command in Senate defense bill MORE (D-Colo.) are also part of the Gang of Eight.

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

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