Senators approved sweeping legislation Thursday to remake the nation’s immigration system for the first time in a generation by spending tens of billions of dollars to bolster security along the U.S. southern border and offering a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.
By a vote of 68 to 32, senators concluded a nearly month-long debate of the 1,200-page measure. Fourteen Republicans voted with every member of the Senate Democratic caucus to approve the bill.
To note the significance, Vice President Biden presided over the vote and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) made the unusual request that senators vote on the measure from their assigned desks.
Supporters, led by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” who wrote the bill and steered it through the Senate, fell just short of the 70 votes they had hoped to earn, but the measure got a significant margin for any legislation in the often-divided chamber.
At midday, two key gang members, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) admitted they initially doubted whether their efforts would succeed.
“This is one of the most divisive issues in one of the most divisive congresses,” Schumer said. “But you know what? Our Republican guys showed amazing strength.”