Despite the concern that bipartisan support for the legislation was fragile, there was no doubting the command over committee proceedings that backers held.
In a final reminder, an attempt by Sen. Ted Cruz., R-Texas, to delete the pathway to citizenship failed on a 13-5 vote.
In defeat, he and others said they, too, wanted to overhaul immigration law, but not the way that drafters of the legislation had done.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, recalled that he had voted to give "amnesty" to those in the country illegally in 1986, the last time Congress took a major look at immigration. He said that bill, like the current one, promised to crack down on illegal immigration, but said it had failed to do so.
The centerpiece provision of the legislation allows an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally to obtain "registered provisional immigrant status" six months after enactment if certain conditions are also met.
Applicants must have arrived in the United States before Dec. 31, 2011, and maintained continuous physical presence, must not have a felony conviction of more than two misdemeanors on their record, and pay a $500 fine.
The registered provisional immigrant status lasts six years and is renewable for another $500. After a decade, though, individuals could seek a green card and lawful permanent resident status if they are up to date on their taxes and pay a $1,000 fine and meet other conditions.
Individuals brought to the country as youths would be able to apply for green cards in five years.
AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace contributed to this report.
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