White-House backed legislation to grant legal status to millions of illegal aliens failed to get the 60 Senate votes needed to proceed to a final vote of passage late Thursday morning.
Many senators speculated that the controversial legislation may not be revisited until after the 2008 elections. Sen. Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.), a fierce opponent of the bill, noted on the Senate floor that the sergeant-at-arm?s office had informed him that because so many constituents had called the Senate in the run-up to the cloture vote, their phone system had crashed that morning.
This represents the second time the bill has failed to get the needed votes.After negotiations on the bill broke down earlier this month and it failed to receive cloture on June 7, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) called it back up on Tuesday.
That day it received the needed 60 votes to reopen debate. 39 Democrats, 24 Republicans and one Independent supported reviving the bill. Twenty-five Republicans, 9 Democrats and one Independent voted against resurrecting it. The final tally was 64-35.
Immediately following that vote, work began to consider 27 amendments to the bill. By Wednesday evening, however, the Senate had only voted on six of those amendments. Because so few amendments were considered, opponents argued nothing substantial had been done to the bill to distinguish it from the one that failed to receive cloture on June 7.
Two of the most contentious amendments were sponsored by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R.-Tex) and Sen. Jim Webb (D.-Va.). Hutchinson’s proposal to require illegal aliens to return to their home countries before obtaining legal status, commonly called a “touch back” provision, was defeated 53-45. Webb’s amendment, which would have only granted legal status to immigrants who had lived in the United States four years, was defeated 79-18.