Senate passes immigration bill; fight awaits in House
The Senate has passed historic immigration legislation offering the hope of American citizenship to millions, while promising a military-style surge to secure the border.
The vote was 68-32, far more than the majority needed to send the measure to the House. Prospects there are not nearly as good and many conservatives are opposed.
Vice President Joe Biden presided, and senators cast their votes from their desks, both steps reserved for momentous votes.
The bill, a priority for President Barack Obama, would amount to the most sweeping changes in decades to the nation's immigration laws.
Prospects in th e House of Representatives are not so bright because many House conservatives oppose the path to citizenship for people here illegally. That provision is at the heart of the Senate bill.
House Republicans say they have no intention of voting on the Senate bill. They're creating their own. They're under pressure from Hispanic groups who want to see comprehensive immigration reform.
"Pass immigration reform now! We don't want more small pieces," said Gustavo Torres, Casa de Maryland.
The congressional Hispanic caucus makes its push Thursday afternoon. They want to see the Senate's plan become law. That includes doubling the number of officers and fencing at the border, plus more security - like drones, along with full employer verification before any of the nation's 11 million undocumented residents get a green card.
"This is about making the underline bill work," said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH).
"We all met in the middle because we believed in this bill," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
But in the House, Speaker John Boehner says they won't even vote on the Senate's version. House Republicans want security first, before any path to citizenship. But that could take years.
"These people will be here and the best thing we can do is bring them out of the shadows," said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ).
Thursday's hearing will focus on keeping people from crossing the border illegally. The upgrades that the Senate is considering are expected to cost upwards of $46 billion - $40 billion more than lawmakers originally planned.