TOPICS > Politics

Senate Passes Landmark Immigration Reform Bill

June 27, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
With 68 votes, the U.S. Senate approved a sweeping overhaul of the country's immigration system for the first time in almost 30 years. The bill will create a pathway to citizenship for some 11 million people currently living in the country as undocumented residents. Ray Suarez reports on the bill's passage.
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JEFFREY BROWN: A bipartisan Senate majority today passed historic legislation reforming the nation’s immigration system. The measure offers the hope of citizenship to 11 million immigrants now in the United States illegally. But the bill faces an uncertain future in the House of Representatives.

Ray Suarez has our report.

FEMALE: Mr. Baucus?

SEN. MAX BAUCUS, D-Mont.: Aye.

RAY SUAREZ: Senators sat in their seats for the final vote on the immigration bill, reflecting the historic nature of the occasion.

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The yeas on this bill are 68; the nays are 32. The bill, as amended, is passed.

RAY SUAREZ: And with that, the Senate approved a sweeping overhaul of the country’s immigration system for the first time in almost 30 years. Supporters of the legislation praised the result, but acknowledged the fight was far from over.

New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez:

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ, D-N.J.: This is an opportunity to do exactly what we did, affect the lives of millions, promote the security of the nation, create a more robust economy, reduce the debt of the country. That’s the opportunity before the House. I hope that they will take it.

RAY SUAREZ: Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was grateful for a two-thirds margin from a body that has a hard time agreeing on anything.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Sixty-eight votes in a body that can’t agree that Sunday should be a day off is a really — step in the right direction. A bill becomes law when it’s signed by the president. To our friends in the House, I understand that you may have a different approach. Speak with your voice. Speak in a way that you feel comfortable. Just don’t ignore the issue. That’s all I ask.

RAY SUAREZ: The Senate bill would create a pathway to citizenship for some 11 million people currently in the country illegally. The legislation also seeks to bolster security along the southern border by hiring 20,000 new Border Patrol agents and completing 700 miles of fencing.

Even with that border security initiative, at a cost of roughly $40 billion dollars, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said the plan fell short of what is needed.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky.: One thing I’m fairly certain about is that we will never resolve the immigration problem on a bipartisan basis, either now or in the future, until we can prove — prove — that the border is secure as a condition for legalization. This, to me, continues to be the biggest hurdle to reform.

RAY SUAREZ: Other lawmakers expressed hope the border security elements could be strengthened in the Republican-controlled House.

Texas Republican John Cornyn:

SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R-Texas: One of our colleagues in the House called this bill a runaway train in the Senate. But that train is getting ready to slow down. And I think the American people will benefit from the Congress taking its time to make sure not just that we just pass a bill, but we pass a good bill.

RAY SUAREZ: Despite the strong bipartisan showing in the Senate, the bill faces a less certain future in the House. Speaker John Boehner says his chamber will chart its own course when it comes to immigration reform, a point he reinforced in a session this morning with reporters.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: The House is not going to take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes. We’re going to do our own bill through regular order.

And it will be legislation that reflects the will of our majority and the will of the American people.

RAY SUAREZ: Boehner added he believed any bill should have the support of a majority in both parties. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Republicans would likely need Democratic support to move a bill through the chamber.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif.: If you want Democratic votes, we’re just not voting for anything. We know it has to be a compromise. We know who is in the majority. But if you want our votes, it has to be something that our members can vote for.

RAY SUAREZ: The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe said the heavy lift will come when, and if, the two chambers have to reconcile their bills.

ED O’KEEFE, The Washington Post: What they have to do in the House first and foremost is come up with a plan on border security that is considered agreeable for most of the Republicans. And that would require strengthening, toughening what was passed in the Senate, and that might be a bridge too far for some senators of both parties who approved the bill on Thursday.

RAY SUAREZ: Boehner said today House Republicans would discuss their next steps on immigration reform once Congress returns from its July 4 recess.