Immigration Bill Sails Through Senate, Has Little Hope In House

By: By STEPHANIE CONDON / CBS NEWS (Posted by Amanda Lanum)
By: By STEPHANIE CONDON / CBS NEWS (Posted by Amanda Lanum)

WASHINGTON, DC (CBS) -- A comprehensive immigration reform bill passed with strong support in the Senate on Thursday, bringing Washington one step closer to accomplishing a major milestone that both Democrats and Republicans have long sought.

Now, however, the bill goes to the House, where, at best, it faces significant headwinds.

The measure passed 68 to 32, with Vice President Joe Biden presiding over the Senate chamber and the senators all casting their votes from their desks. Senators are rarely seated at their desks for votes -- the largely symbolic move is typically reserved for confirming Supreme Court nominees or major votes, such as the 2010 Affordable Care Act vote or the 2011 resolution commending troops and the intelligence community for the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Fourteen Republicans joined 52 Democrats and two Independents in voting for the bill, including Sen. Jeffrey Chiesa, R-N.J., the Republican who was appointed to his seat this month after the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J. No Democrats voted against the bill.

After the legislation passed, President Obama released a statement commending the Senate and urging the public to lobby the House to pass some version of the bill.

"As this process moves forward, I urge everyone who cares about this issue to keep a watchful eye," he said. "Now is the time when opponents will try their hardest to pull this bipartisan effort apart so they can stop commonsense reform from becoming a reality. We cannot let that happen."

The legislation's bipartisan authors delivered passionate arguments in favor of the legislation on the Senate floor Thursday, often making their remarks personal. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., one of the four Republicans who joined four Democrats to shape the bill, spoke about how his parents grew to love America after immigrating from Cuba.

"We focus so much on how immigrants can change America that we forget America has always changed immigrants even more," he said. "That's why I support this reform, not just because I believe in immigrants, but because I believe in America even more."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., another one of the "gang of eight" senators who drafted the bill, stressed the political advantages of proving to the public that Congress can still function.

"I see this as a significant step toward the U.S. Senate being able to work together in a bipartisan fashion to do something that matters," he said. "Is this bill perfect? No... It is a good solution to a hard problem that can always be made better."

Graham also pointed out that, to extent, the effort should help Republicans.

"I'm doing great among Hispanics in South Carolina. The bad news: there are not very many who vote in a Republican primary," he said, adding that he's attempted to work with his colleagues "to start a process that will pay great dividends."


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