Immigration Bill to Hit Senate Floor in June

Immigration bill survives a long markup and passes in committee.

Senate Judiciary Committee members Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., left, and Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., confer on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, May 20, 2013, as the committee assembled to work on a landmark immigration bill.
By SHARE

The landmark immigration legislation penned by the "gang of eight" lives to see another day.

The comprehensive immigration bill survived its first real test when it passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, 13 to 5, Tuesday night.

"I don't think we will make the mistakes we made six and seven years ago because we've had this crucible," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said.

[READ: Major ICE Union Against Immigration Bill, But Senate Bill Barrels Forward]

The bill will now have its day on the Senate floor in June when Congress returns after the recess.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced Tuesday during a press briefing that he will not stand in its way.

"The Gang of Eight has made a substantial contribution to moving the issue forward. So far, I'm told that the Judiciary Committee has not in any fundamental way undone the agreement reached by the eight senators," McConnell said. "I'm hopeful we'll be able to get a bill we can pass here in the Senate."

 

After an onslaught of 300 amendments, the legislation survived the marathon markup with the core principles intact. The legislation sets up a way to control the future flow of high-skill, low-skill and agricultural workers and provides the country's 11 million immigrants who came here illegally a chance to pay back taxes and embark on a long, 13-year path to citizenship.

[BROWSE: Political Cartoons on Immigration]

"This is a significant first step, and there will be more tests to come, but this accomplishment makes me guardedly optimistic for the success of the legislation," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

The border security provisions in the bill, including one that requires the border to be protected with a 90 percent effectiveness rate, was even bolstered to quell GOP concerns that the most recent attempts to reform the country's immigration system would not end like the reform efforts of 1986 when millions were given amnesty, but the border remained porous.

While the Senate's gang stuck together on countless amendments, the bill nearly died during the final minutes of the markup when Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., entertained introducing the Uniting American Families Act, an amendment that would allow same-sex, binational couples to sponsor partners for green cards.

Republicans who were a part of the gang of eight said that if the amendment was introduced and passed, they would walk away from the deal they helped craft.

"If you want to keep me on immigration, stay on immigration," said Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. "You've got me on immigration, you don't have me on marriage. I just can't tell you more directly."

[DEBATE CLUB: Is the Senate's Immigration Deal a Good Plan?]

Even Democrats including Sen. Dick Durbin, Ill., who has been a cosponsor of the Uniting American Families Act, urged Leahy to postpone introducing the amendment.

"I believe this is the wrong moment, I believe this is the wrong bill," Durbin pleaded.

President Barack Obama congratulated the group on moving the bill out of committee Tuesday, although he noted there were pieces he wished were different.

"None of the Committee members got everything they wanted, and neither did I , but in the end, we all owe it to the American people to get the best possible result over the finish line," Obama said in a statement. "I encourage the full Senate to bring this bipartisan bill to the floor at the earliest possible opportunity and remain hopeful that the amendment process will lead to further improvements."

More News: