The chances that Congress will act on a comprehensive immigration bill this year have been dealt a possibly fatal blow in the Senate.
Supporters of the immigration bill needed 60 votes to bring nearly two weeks of debate to a close and move on to a final vote, but they couldn't muster even a majority, as nearly all Republicans and a handful of Democrats acted to block final consideration.
It was the second procedural test the measure faced and failed Thursday, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said it was time to move on, although he didn't shut the door entirely.
"I have every desire to complete this legislation and we all have to work, the president included, to figure out a way to get this bill passed," he said.
Democrats and Republicans traded charges over who was to blame for the bill's demise.
Reid said the headlines will read that the president failed because he couldn't win the support of conservative Republicans. Those conservatives said it the bill amounted to amnesty, because it would give legal status to the nation's estimated 12 million undocumented aliens.
Republicans charged it was simply that Democrats wouldn't allow them enough opportunities to amend the legislation. Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said given a little more time, the measure could still be approved.
"I think were giving up on this bill too soon," he said. "I like what I think I heard the majority leader say – [that] he doesn't want to give up on it either.
"I think we are a few days [from] getting to the end of what many would applaud as a bipartisan accomplishment," McConnell said.
But after days of closed-door negotiations, senators of both parties could neither overcome objections to the bill's many contentious provisions nor could they settle on a procedure to continue debate. While both sides said the bill was technically still alive, a stream of senators took to the floor to eulogize the measure.
But not taking action was just fine with many senators from both parties.
"I was not going to support a piece of legislation that's not going to work," said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL).
The measure was dubbed the "grand bargain" by its authors, who cobbled it together behind closed doors. It would have changed the way visas are issued from a system based on family ties to one based on merit. It also contained a guest worker provision, and new requirements for employers to verify the identities and legal status of their workers.
But critics from all sides assailed the measure as unworkable. Despite the optimism that it might yet be reconsidered, chances for the bill appear bleak.
With additional reporting from The Associated Press