This afternoon, the Senate voted by a 82-15 margin to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the immigration bill, S. 744. Compared to the 2007 immigration debate, when the similar procedural vote only advanced by a 64-35 margin, today’s vote is a promising sign. It is expected that another bipartisan majority will vote “aye” on the motion to proceed momentarily and the immigration debate will be in full swing in the Senate.
While all Democrats voted for cloture to allow the legislation to proceed, 15 Republican Senators voted against it. Per the Huffington Post, the “no” Republicans were “Chuck Grassley (Iowa), John Boozman (Arkansas), Ted Cruz (Texas), Jim Inhofe (Oklahoma), Mark Kirk (Illinois), Mike Lee (Utah), James Risch (Idaho), Tim Scott (South Carolina), Jeff Sessions (Alabama), Richard Shelby (Alabama), David Vitter (Louisiana), Mike Enzi (Wyoming), John Barrasso (Wyoming), Mike Crapo (Idaho), and Pat Roberts (Kansas).”
A huge disappointment was the vote of Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL). Hailing from Illinois, one of the nation’s most pro-immigrant states in the nation, and one with a long tradition of bipartisan support for immigration reforms, Senator Kirk’s vote will undoubtedly cause enormous political blowback.
Just as disturbingly, POLITICO reporter Carrie Budoff Brown tweeted that, “Kirk just told me that he will vote for the immigration bill if Cornyn border amendment passes.” Similarly, New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman tweeted that for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell the Cornyn amendment was “’the key amendment’ to win his support for immigration overhaul.”
As a reminder, the Cornyn amendment is a poison pill designed to derail the bill, not to improve it. The amendment would make the path to citizenship less attainable and would throw more money at border and interior enforcement measures that already add up to the largest enforcement increase in American history.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
Senator Mark Kirk has some ‘splaining to do. He hails from a gateway state with a proud bipartisan tradition of welcoming immigrants and yet he voted with a group of far right cultural conservatives. And those who hold out the Cornyn amendment as a condition for support are not looking to get to yes, but they are looking for an excuse to get to no.
Fortunately, an overwhelming majority of Kirk’s colleagues—Republicans and Democrats—voted to start debate on the immigration bill as the first step towards finally getting something done on this issue, this year. The group who voted to block debate on immigration reform are defenders of the status quo, at a time when the vast majority of Americans and all major facets of society are calling on Congress to act.