The U.S. Senate voted 67-27 Monday to move forward with an amendment to the 2013 immigration bill that would beef up security along the southern border and erect more fencing to keep illegal crossers out.
The so-called border surge amendment, sponsored by Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., topped the 60 votes needed to end debate. NBC reported that 14 Republicans joined the Democratic majority, although travel problems kept some senators from voting.
The Hoeven-Corker amendment requires that five tangible "triggers" be met before green cards are issued to immigrants currently in the country illegally. Those triggers are: building 700 miles of fencing, deploying an additional 20,000 border agents, implementing a mandatory E-Verify system for employers, placing electronic entry-exit systems at all airports and seaports, and creating an operational border plan that would add more drones and other high-tech tools into the mix.
Border security and whether to grant citizenship to the 11 million undocumented immigrants living illegally in America have been at the center of the debate between Republicans and Democrats. Lawmakers decided to throw $30 billion at the problem to remove the impasse. This was after the Senate rejected a previous border security bill from Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, that would have required complete surveillance of the southern border before any immigrant is put on a path to citizenship.
Corker said the elements in his bill are what Republicans have been requesting for years. The “Gang of Eight” senators who drafted the bill have endorsed the amendment to draw more Republican support.
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“What this amendment does is that it balances out the bill,” Corker said. “I think we ought to send this amendment on to the base bill.”
Not all Republicans are falling in line. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., who has staunchly opposed the immigration reform legislation since day one, argued Monday afternoon that senators were not given enough time to read the Hoeven-Corker measure since it was filed late Friday, when many senators had left town for the weekend. He also argued that by filing cloture, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is creating a situation where lawmakers have to “play mother-may-I.”
“This is exactly what happened with Obamacare,” Sessions said. “The majority rushed through a bill so that there is no time to digest what was in it.”
Corker later shot back, saying a middle school child could read the bill in about 30 to 45 minutes.
“It’s certainly not something major to ask when you’re serving in the United States Senate,” Corker added.