The United States Senate voted 68-32 to pass the “Gang of Eight” immigration legislation on Thursday afternoon. Fourteen Republicans joined all Democrats and the two independents to vote to push the bill across the finish line, sending the bill to the House of Representatives.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) offered a personal story in a Senate floor speech praising the passage of the bill. “Here they [immigrants] brought their language and their customs,” Rubio, the Republican face of the Gang of Eight, said after speaking of his family. “Their religions and their music. And somehow, made them ours as well. From a collection of people from everywhere, we became one people. The most exceptional nation in human history.”
“And even with all our challenges, we remain the shining city on the hill,” he said. “We are still the hope of the world.”
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) made a similar pitch as the vote was coming down. “For Senator Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), immigration reform is personal,” Reid’s office said in a release with a video of the Leader on the senate floor. “As the Senator from Nevada, he has seen firsthand how the hardships imposed by our broken immigration system have hurt families in the state and across the country. As Congress debates immigration reform, Senator Reid will continue to do everything in his power to pass a comprehensive bill.”
Despite the stories from Reid, Rubio, and others, supporters of the legislation missed their mark, failing to achieve 70 votes, meaning they do not, by their own standards, have a mandate to send to the House of Representatives. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), an opponent of the bill, said in a statement that its senate passage is “just the beginning” of the fight.
“Sponsors of this legislation–despite the array of financial, establishment and special interest support–failed to hit their target of 70 votes,” Sessions said. “The more people learned about the bill the more uneasy they became. Failure to reach 70 votes is significant, and ensures the House has plenty of space to chart an opposite course and reject this fatally flawed proposal.”
As the Washington Times‘ Stephen Dinan reported, House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) still considers the Senate Gang of Eight bill dead on arrival in his chamber of Congress. “The House is not going to take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes,” Boehner said at his weekly press conference.
House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said in a statement after the Senate bill’s passage that the Gang of Eight legislation is not good, and the House will not be taking it up.
“While I congratulate the Senate for working hard to produce immigration reform legislation, I have many concerns about its bill,” Goodlatte said. “The bill repeats many of the same mistakes made in the 1986 immigration law, which got us into this mess in the first place. Among my many concerns, the Senate bill does not adequately address the interior enforcement of our immigration laws and allows the Executive branch to waive many, if not most, of the bill’s requirements.”
Goodlatte added that his committee will not be politically pressured into forcing a piece of legislation through. “While the Senate has every right to pass solutions it deems appropriate, the House does as well,” he declared. “That’s the American legislative process. Since the beginning of the year, the House Judiciary Committee has taken a step-by-step approach to reforming our nation’s immigration laws, embarking on a careful, methodical examination of various components of our immigration system.”
Notably, every member of Senate Republican leadership voted against the Gang of Eight bill. Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Whip Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), and Senate GOP conference chairman Sen. John Thune (R-SD) all voted “no” on the bill. The lack of leadership support for the Gang of Eight is likely to hamper efforts to force Boehner to act in the House.
However, President Barack Obama praised the passage of the bill and called on advocates to use political pressure to force it through the House. “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,” Obama said in a statement.
“The bipartisan bill that passed today was a compromise. By definition, nobody got everything they wanted. Not Democrats. Not Republicans. Not me,” he said. “But the Senate bill is consistent with the key principles for commonsense reform that I–and many others–have repeatedly laid out.”