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 RubioVa. GOP delegate files lawsuit over bound convention votes The Hill's 12:30 Report Rubio Senate challenger drops out MORE (R-Fla.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamBipartisan gun measure survives test vote Senate Republicans may defy NRA on guns Hacked computer network mysteriously back online MORE (R-S.C.) and Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeMcConnell quashes Senate effort on guns Bipartisan gun measure survives test vote Senate Republicans may defy NRA on guns MORE (R-Ariz.) — were joined by more than 20 other GOP senators in voting to advance the debate. Sen. John McCainJohn McCainReport: Prominent neoconservative to fundraise for Clinton McConnell quashes Senate effort on guns No reason why women shouldn't be drafted 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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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 ReidSay NO to PROMESA, say NO to Washington overreach Overnight Finance: Wall Street awaits Brexit result | Clinton touts biz support | New threat to Puerto Rico bill? | Dodd, Frank hit back McConnell quashes Senate effort on guns 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 hopes for boost from Brexit vote GOP senators: Brexit vote a wake-up call Sessions warns of 'radical' Clinton immigration policy MORE (R-Ala.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyDozens of senators push EPA for higher ethanol mandate Civil liberties group mobilizes against surveillance amendment Brother may I? Congress must reform senseless drug regulation 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 DurbinSenate Dems link court fight to Congressional Baseball Game Dems: Immigration decision will 'energize' Hispanic voters Senate Dems rip GOP on immigration ruling 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 SchumerThis week: Senate showdown over gun control Dems push vulnerable GOP senators on gun control Senate schedules Monday votes on gun control MORE (D-N.Y.), Durbin, Robert MenendezRobert MenendezOvernight Cybersecurity: Senate narrowly rejects expanding FBI surveillance powers Senate narrowly rejects new FBI surveillance Kaine, Murphy push extension of Iran sanctions MORE (D-N.J.) and Michael BennetMichael BennetTed Cruz chooses sides in Colorado Senate primary The Trail 2016: Reversal of fortunes Senate compromises on Russian rocket engines MORE (D-Colo.) are also part of the Gang of Eight.
This story was updated at 3:28 p.m.