Historic immigration legislation cleared a key Senate hurdle with votes to spare Monday, pointing the way to near-certain passage within days for $38 billion worth of new security measures along the border with Mexico and an unprecedented chance at citizenship for millions living in the country illegally.
The vote was 67-27, seven more than the 60 needed, with 15 Republicans agreeing to advance legislation at the top of President Barack Obama’s second-term domestic agenda.
The vote came as Obama campaigned from the White House for the bill, saying, “now is the time” to overhaul an immigration system that even critics of the legislation agree needs reform.
Last-minute frustration was evident among opponents. In an unusual slap at members of his own party as well as Democrats, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said it appeared that lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle “very much want a fig leaf” on border security to justify a vote for immigration.
Senate passage Thursday or Friday would send the issue to the House, where conservative Republicans in the majority oppose citizenship for anyone living in the country illegally.