Reid sets Senate vote on key immigration bill amendment

A United States Border Patrol truck sits near the fence along the border between the United States and Mexico in Nogalas, Arizona. UPI /Art Foxall
A United States Border Patrol truck sits near the fence along the border between the United States and Mexico in Nogalas, Arizona. UPI /Art Foxall | License Photo

WASHINGTON, June 21 (UPI) -- U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Friday the Senate will vote next week on border security, a key issue holding up action on immigration reform.

Reid, D-Nev., made the announcement as he filed a motion to hold a vote Monday on a border-security amendment congressional Republicans see as a way to generate more GOP support for reform legislation. He said the Senate will vote on the immigration bill before leaving Washington for the Fourth of July holiday, The Hill reported.


The bill's sponsors claimed victory Thursday when they announced a deal with Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota that would double the number of border patrol agents to 40,000 and mandate construction of 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as requiring increased use of surveillance technology, The Hill reported Friday.

"This amendment really toughens the bill and it's squarely focused on border security," Hoeven said Thursday.

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Corker predicted the agreement could secure 15 Republican votes for the sweeping immigration legislation -- which conservatives now concede is possible. Members of the bipartisan Gang of Eight lawmakers who developed the legislation, however, said they were uncertain whether the bill would pick up 70 votes.


"I think there's a great possibility of bringing on 15 Republicans and, candidly it's possible that as this moves along, more as people look at it," Corker said.

A senior Republican lawmaker who is vocal in his criticism of the bill told The Hill 10 to 12 Republicans in addition to the four members of the Gang of Eight could vote for the bill.

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"There are a bunch of people looking for an excuse to vote for this," said the lawmaker, who requested anonymity to speak candidly.

The Gang of Eight's mood was blunted somewhat by the defeat Thursday of the five-year farm bill by the House, where 62 Republicans voted against the reauthorization bill.

"Of course I worry, but you can only do so much and I think by getting a significant vote in the Senate that maybe that would be very helpful," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a Gang of Eight member. "There's always a certain amount ... of rivalry between both sides of the Capitol and I certainly try to avoid telling them what I think they should do."

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McCain said other issues still need to be resolved, but the Corker-Hoeven language on border security addressed the main concern of many Republicans.


"There are other issues that are very important, but obviously the biggest one is this issue of border security," he said.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a Gang of Eight member who has taken the lead in selling the bill to conservatives, praised the Corker-Hoeven amendment as an important breakthrough.

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"I think it is the most substantial border security plan we have ever had before any body of Congress," he said on the Senate floor.

"We are on the verge of a huge breakthrough on border security," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., another Gang of Eight member. "With this agreement we believe we have the makings of a strong, bipartisan, final vote in favor of this immigration reform bill."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said during his weekly news conference Thursday an immigration overhaul bill would pass his chamber only if it ensured "our borders are secure" and gave "confidence that those who came here illegally are not given special treatment, confidence that hardworking taxpayers are being respected and confidence that a majority of both parties have had their say and support the final product."

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