A major addition to the immigration bill that beefs up border security and effectively serves in part as a “redo” of the legislation will face a crucial procedural vote in the Senate on Monday afternoon.
Written after a series of negotiations between Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota, the amendment is intended to ease concerns of skeptical lawmakers who are calling for tougher border enforcement as part of the bill.
The bill retains the language of the original one proposed by a bipartisan group of eight senators earlier this year, but adds 119 new pages, Corker says. While most of the language would remain the same, the Corker-Hoeven version strengthens security measures by nearly doubling the amount of security agents along the nation's borders. The bill would also mandate the construction of a fence stretching "no less than" 700 miles along the U.S. border with Mexico and provide funding for aerial surveillance of the area. The federal government will be required to meet a series of security benchmarks before immigrants living in the country illegally would be allowed to obtain permanent legal status.
“The American people want a strong, comprehensive immigration reform plan, but we need to get it right,” Hoeven said in a statement last week. “That means first and foremost securing the southern border before we address other meaningful reforms to our immigration policy. They want to know that ten years from now, we won’t find ourselves in this same position, having to address the same problem.”
The Senate will vote on whether to end debate on the amendment, which will allow it to move on to final passage within the next few weeks.
Lawmakers rejected a similar (and less costly) amendment to the bill proposed by Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn last week by tabling the measure, so supporters of the new amendment hope it will serve as a new vessel to entice more Republicans to sign on to the bill.
The co-authors of the original immigration bill, including Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have spoken optimistically about securing as many as 70 votes for the final bill in the Senate, the number they think the bill needs to show the effort has wide bipartisan support. The bill is likely to get the support from 60 members needed to overcome a filibuster, but getting 70 would put pressure on the House—a chamber with a higher concentration of conservative lawmakers—to act.
“We’re very, very close to getting 70 votes," Graham said during a weekend interview on “Fox News Sunday.”
The Senate is expected to hold the procedural vote on the Corker-Hoeven amendment at about 5:30 p.m. Monday.