WASHINGTON – In the first and only vote Thursday on the immigration bill, senators turned back a Republican measure that would have delayed a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally until after the border with Mexico is fully secure.
Republicans still plan to offer several other measures to enhance border security, but this one, from Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, was one of the most hard-line of the proposals.
The 57-43 vote to defeat the amendment was an imprecise test of whether the Senate will find the 60 votes to pass the bill. Some senators who favored the tough approach may still vote for the bill.
Party leaders outside Congress continued pushing GOP lawmakers to soften their opposition to the overhaul, which needs Republican votes to pass. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., worked behind the scenes to come up with a compromise on border security.
“That’s one of the problems in the bill right now, one of the things I’m going to help fix,” the Florida senator said on Talk Radio Network’s “Andrea Tantaros Show.”
Rubio was one of four Republicans and four Democrats who drafted the bill. All four of those Republicans voted to table Grassley’s amendment, as did Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.
Two conservative Democrats, Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, joined all the other Republicans to back the tougher approach to border security.
Senators stopped work on the bill until next week, when they will resume efforts to reach agreement for votes on some of the nearly 100 proposed amendments.
Top Republicans, including Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, sought to nudge GOP lawmakers toward an overhaul of immigration laws that party leaders see as critical to winning back Latino voters who have largely turned toward the Democratic Party.
To win more support from Republicans, Rubio wants to give Congress, not the Homeland Security Department, a larger role in devising a border plan.