RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.
Just yesterday it sounded like a big change to American immigration laws had a chance of passing. Then came the voting last night. The U.S. Senate did not vote on the measure itself, but lawmakers felt far short of voting to cut off debate, which means the bill cannot be brought to a vote.
NPR's Brian Naylor reports on a measure that had strong support and fierce opposition in both political parties.
BRIAN NAYLOR: 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 yesterday, and as promised, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said it was time to move on. But he didn't shut the door on eventually coming back to the bill.
Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada; Senate Majority Leader): 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.
NAYLOR: Democrats and Republicans traded charges over who was to blame for the bill's demise. Reid said the headlines will be the president failed because he couldn't win the support of conservative Republicans behind the measure.
They said the bill amounted to amnesty because it would give legal status to the nation's estimated 12 million undocumented workers. Republicans charged it was simply that Democrats wouldn't allow them enough opportunities to amend the legislation. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said given a little more time, the measure might yet be approved.
Senator MITCH McCONNELL (Republican, Kentucky): I think we're giving up on this bill too soon. I like what I think I heard the majority leader said, that he doesn't want to give up on it either. I think we are within a few days of getting to the end of what many would applaud as an important bipartisan accomplishment.
NAYLOR: But after a day's worth of closed-door negotiations, senators of both parties couldn't overcome objections to the bill's many contentious provisions, nor could they settle on a procedure to continue debate.
While both sides said the immigration bill was technically still alive, a stream of senators eulogized the measure on the Senate floor. Massachusetts Democrat Ted Kennedy, the leading Democratic sponsor of the bill, said the issue will not go away.
Senator TED KENNEDY (Democrat, Massachusetts): We can't look out across America at the 12.5 million people that tonight, after finding out what has happened or failed to happen here in the United States Senate, know that they are going home to their children and to know that their fear is enhanced and increased because we have failed to take action.
FORERO: But not taking action was just fine with many senators from both parties, Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama among them.
Senator JEFF SESSIONS (Republican, Alabama): I was not going to support a piece of legislation that's not going to work. It's not going to be a 1986 for me that I voted for a bill that promised amnesty today and law enforcement in the future and the amnesty occurs and the law enforcement doesn't.
FORERO: The measure was dubbed the Grand Bargain by its authors, who cobbled the bill 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. Critics from all sides assailed the measure as unworkable. And despite the optimism that it might yet be reconsidered, chances for the bill appear bleak.
House leaders say they won't take up immigration until the Senate passes a bill. And Senate Democrats are anxious to move on to other issues, including a vote of no confidence in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and an energy bill.
Brian Naylor, NPR News, the Capitol.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.