Rather than enter a third week of work on the Senate immigration bill, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) pulled it from the schedule Thursday evening after members thrice voted to keep debating and amending the legislation.
Earlier in the week, Reid vowed that if he did not get the 60 votes needed to close debate and prohibit any more amendments from being added to the bill, called cloture, by Thursday he would abandon the legislation and proceed with other business.
A vote for cloture would have allowed the Senate to immediately proceed to a final vote of passage for the bill. Republicans insisted that because of the unusual way the legislation was brought forth, without committee hearings or markup, more time was needed to work on the bill.
Reid threatened: "If this bill goes down with the vast majority of the Democrats voting for this action to move forward on this, and the Republicans vote against it...the headline is going to be: Democrats vote to continue the bill, Republicans vote against it, the president fails again."
In the final vote, 11 Senate Democrats joined with Republicans to continue work on the bill, 50-45. This was 15 votes short of the 60 votes needed to close debate.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D.-Calif.), who voted against cloture, said the bill would contribute to the “exploitation of [illegal] workers.” She said the guest worker program contained in the bill would create “a permanent pool of insecure, low-paid workers whom I believe will never leave the country, even though they are supposed to.”
“This will only continue the cycle of illegal immigration,” she said.
Other Democrats voting with the GOP were: Sen. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Sen. Max Baucus (Mont.), Sen. Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Sen. Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.), Sen. Claire McCaskill (Missouri), Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.), Sen. Jay Rockefeller (W.V.), Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.) and Sen. Jim Webb (D.-Va.).
Independent Bernie Sanders (I.-Vt.) also voted against cloture.
Meanwhile, seven Republicans voted with the Democrats for cloture. They were: Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Sen. Richard Lugar (Ind.), Sen. Chuck Hagel (Neb.), Sen. Mel Martinez (Fla.), Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) and Sen. George Voinovich (Ohio).
After the critical vote, Democrats said President Bush would be instrumental in bringing the Senate together to resume work on the bill.