WASHINGTON (AP) – A bipartisan immigration bill narrowly survived a potentially fatal challenge on Wednesday when the Senate turned back a Republican bid to limit the illegal immigrants who could gain lawful status. The close vote on a proposal by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, to bar felons—including those court-ordered to be deported—from legalization reflected the delicate position of the contentious immigration bill, which remains under threat from the right and the left.
The vote was 51-46 against the amendment. Democrats succeeded in sucking support from Cornyn’s proposal by winning adoption of a rival version that would bar a more limited set of criminals, including certain gang members and sex offenders, from gaining legalization. The Senate backed that amendment 66-32.
Cornyn had painted his effort as a “defining issue” for any presidential candidate—a sign of the degree to which the contentious debate is bleeding over into the GOP campaign fray.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., alone among his party’s presidential aspirants in backing the immigration measure, opposed Cornyn’s bid and backed the Democratic alternative offered by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.
McCain: Our Borders Must Be Erased