The Senate votes to cut off debate on an immigration overhaul, moving it a step closer to passing the legislation. With a final vote expected late Thursday, the Senate package is sharply different from the House bill, and there are doubts the two can be reconciled.
A vote today shut off any possibility of a filibuster on a compromise plan that incorporates both a path toward citizenship for immigrants already in the country - and tougher enforcement at the border.
The Senate's vote to limit further debate on the immigration bill was 73 to 25, 13 votes more than what's needed to break a filibuster. Massachusetts Democrat Edward Kennedy hailed the outcome, saying it "creates major momentum for this legislation."
And Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter, who managed the bill through days of debate and amendments, defended what others have criticized as an unworkable plan to legalize the status of millions now in the country illegally. "Is it too unwieldy? No. Does it respond to a very complex set of facts? Yes," he said.
But Sen. Specter also added, "Does somebody have a better approach? Not yet — but we're still open for business."
A final vote on the Senate bill could come by Thursday.