The Senate has begun debating a complex and controversial immigration bill, which passed a test vote this evening by a margin of 69-23, allowing senators to formally begin consideration of the measure.
The bill would tighten border security, give legal status to an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, start a new guest worker system and change a raft of laws on how visas are awarded. Critics say the measure gives amnesty to illegal immigrants — and is unworkable.
When supporters of the immigration proposal announced they had reached an agreement on the measure last week, there was optimism the bill might sail unimpeded through the Senate. But as critics have had time to examine the measure closely, it now faces some choppy waters.
As was expected, the rallying point for conservative Republicans has been the provision that would give immediate legal status to the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States and put them on a pathway to citizenship.
The measure needed 60 votes to invoke cloture and allow debate to begin. The legislation is expected to take up the Senate's time for the rest of this week and beyond.