Beating back the first attempt to substantially change the pending immigration bill’s border security measures, the Senate on Thursday voted down a Republican effort to require strict security goals are met for six months before undocumented immigrants can apply for legal status.
The bill’s bipartisan drafters – the so-called “Gang of Eight” – held together to vote against the amendment by Sen. Chuck Grassley, with Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joining the four GOP senators in the group.
The final vote to kill the measure was 57-43.
Politico's John Harris talks about Sen. Marc Rubio's conflicting statements on border security and legalization.
Two Democrats, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, voted with 41 Republicans in support of the Grassley amendment.
As written, Grassley’s language would have required that the Department of Homeland Security maintain effective control of the U.S.-Mexico border for six months before people in the country illegally are eligible for probationary legal status. Lawmakers who support the Gang of Eight bill said that requirement was far too harsh and would keep undocumented immigrants “in the shadows” unnecessarily.
In a radio interview, Sen. Marco Rubio - a Republican Gang of Eight drafter who has said he wants to beef up border security measures in the bill - said he opposed the Grassley amendment because it would delay the registration process for undocumented immigrants and because it failed to detail the border plan sufficiently.
"We cannot wait another four years of de facto amnesty," he said. "We cannot wait another four years with 11 million people living in this country illegally without knowing who they are or why they’re here
The vote was the last of the week on the immigration effort, as leaders wrangle about the procedure for addressing amendments that have been proposed to the Gang of Eight legislation.
Democrats from the Gang of Eight, along with Senate Judiciary Committee Chariman Patrick Leahy, met with the president at the White House later Thursday to discuss the immigration effort.
At that meeting, "they discussed floor strategy for the next two weeks in order to produce the strongest bill possible with the most votes possible," said a Senate Democratic aide.
On the Senate floor Thursday, Majority Leader Harry Reid threatened that lawmakers may have to work through next weekend to complete consideration of the bill before the July 4 recess.
“I hope everyone will continue working to come to an agreement on how we can improve this bill,” Reid said. “I kind of like it the way it is, but I’m not the one going to make that determination.”
The future of immigration reform legislation is uncertain in the GOP-led House. Republicans in the lower chamber will hold a special closed-door session on July 10 to discuss the issue, leaders announced Thursday.
This story was originally published on Thu Jun 13, 2013 12:11 PM EDT