WASHINGTON -- The Senate is set to hold its first vote Monday on a broad amendment that addresses border security and other GOP concerns with the comprehensive immigration bill, putting the body in a good position for passing reform before the upcoming recess.
The final deal for an amendment was reached on Friday, based on an initial agreement over border security led by the "gang of eight" and Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.). Senators believe that, with the amendment, they should get close to 70 votes, giving the broader bill well over what it needs to pass and more momentum when it heads to the House.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Friday that the first vote on the Corker-Hoeven amendment will be held on Monday evening, putting the body on track to pass the entire bill by the Fourth of July recess. If the legislation passes, it will be a major victory for the bipartisan gang of eight who drafted it and immigration reform supporters who want to see a path to citizenship for the roughly 11 million undocumented people currently living in the United States.
"The product we have now is the work of the gang of eight and the gang of two," Reid said on the Senate floor after filing the omnibus amendment, calling it a "wonderful product."
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) noted that passage of the broader legislation wasn't a done deal, but sounded relieved to at least have resolved one major issue.
"The addition of Corker-Hoeven amendment gives us a new mast, new wind in our sails," Schumer said on the Senate floor. "And I am confident if we stay united together, Democrats and Republicans of good will, we will see before the end of this year comprehensive immigration reform signed into law by the president of the United States."
The amendment largely addresses border concerns, with significant increases in funding for agents, technology and fencing. It would add 20,000 border agents, potentially at the cost of about $30 billion, and require 700 miles of double-layered fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. It would also require Congress to appropriate money for radar surveillance on the border similar to what is being used in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although undocumented immigrants would be able to quickly gain provisional immigration status, they could not gain green cards until a 10-year period has passed and the border requirements have been met.
Corker estimated on Thursday that the amendment could bring 11 Republicans on board in addition to the four GOP members in the gang of eight. Hoeven said that Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and others had signed on as co-sponsors, and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) -- who notably voted against moving forward with debate on the bill -- said he would support the bill if the Corker-Hoeven amendment was added.
The amendment included two proposals from Heller. One would require the Department of Homeland Security to submit a report to make airports aware of how a biometric entry and exit system would be implemented. The other would require a plan from DHS for reducing wait times at high-traffic airports.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) announced Friday he would also co-sponsor the amendment, following the addition of two of his provisions: one to prevent undocumented immigrant workers from claiming their earnings in order to qualify for Social Security benefits, and another to close loopholes that he says allow immigrants of provisional status to receive federal welfare funds.
Another Hatch amendment, which would require additional back taxes from undocumented immigrants, was considered too difficult to implement by other senators and was not included. But Hatch will continue to push for a vote on the back tax amendment, according to a statement.
On the more liberal side, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was able to work in a provision for $1.5 billion to help states and localities find jobs for 16- to 24-year-olds, a move that helped address his concerns that the guest-worker provisions of the bill would increase youth unemployment.
When it became clear that the amendment might be the bill's best chance for passage, senators scrambled to see if their proposed measures could be added, lest they be left out of the legislation entirely. Many amendments didn't make it into the bill despite prodding from senators.
Thirteen female senators proposed a measure meant to make it easier for women to immigrate to the U.S. by adding a category for merit-based visas that would include professions commonly held by women. The senators were not able to get their measure into the Corker-Hoeven deal. A bipartisan amendment from Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to give a shorter path to citizenship to undocumented children was also left out of the broader amendment.
Reid said on the Senate floor that he hoped to hold votes on other amendments, but had no promises for them getting through.
"We're going to continue to try to work before we finish this legislation to allow people to offer amendments," Reid said. "Now, frankly ... most of them won't pass, but that's not the point. They should be able to offer an amendment. And I hope we can come up with a list of amendments to move forward with this body."
Although Democrats supported the Corker-Hoeven deal, many weren't entirely pleased with the surge in spending to the border.
"It is an understatement to say that this is not the amendment I would have drafted," Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said on the Senate floor after saying he supported the amendment. "It is a disappointment to me and to many. The modification to my amendment reads like a Christmas wish list for Halliburton. I am sure there are federal contracting firms high-fiving at the prospect of all of the spending demanded by Senate Republicans in this amendment."
UPDATE: 5:55 p.m. -- Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano voiced support later Friday for the deal on border security:
The President has made clear that commonsense immigration reform legislation must include measures to strengthen border security, create a path to earned citizenship, crack down on employers that hire undocumented workers, and streamline our legal immigration system so everyone is playing by the same set of rules. The border security amendment agreed to by a bipartisan group of Senators is in line with that criteria, it will devote important additional resources to the robust border security system this Administration has put in place and strengthen what was already an unmatched piece of border security legislation.