Immigration Bill Heads to Senate Floor

At the end of the markup today, Sessions declared that "this legislation fails to live up to every major promise of its sponsors."

"Ironically, the only promise the sponsors of this legislation have kept is their promise to block any attempts to improve the proposal," he said.

"As a result, we are left with legislation that is fundamentally unchanged and fatally flawed. It will not become law."

Sessions also noted "amendments offered by Republicans to put enforcement first were all rejected."

"This bill is bad for workers, bad for taxpayers and—as immigration officers have pleaded for us to hear—a threat to public safety and the rule of law. It serves the special interests at the expense of the national interest," he said. "Therefore, I must oppose.”

GOP amendments that were adopted included two from Flake, a Group of Eight member, that would require an additional background check for registered provisional immigrants at the time of status renewal and requiring that any provisional immigrant who fraudulently tries to get federal benefits has his or her status revoked.

“These are commonsense amendments that address specific concerns. They will, respectively, strengthen our security and ensure that federal benefits aren’t extended to those who have fraudulently tried to claim them," Flake said. "These amendments represent how the full and open process of regular order continues to better this bill."

Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) said he hopes "our history, our values, and our decency can inspire us finally to take action." Leahy withdrew his amendment today that would have blended the same-sex marriage debate with immigration by mandating any marriage legal on foreign soil be recognized by U.S. immigration authorities.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated to reporters today that he's "hopeful that we'll be able to get a bill that we can pass here in the Senate."

"With regard to getting started on the bill, it's my intention if there is a motion to proceed required, to vote for the motion to proceed so we can get on the bill, and see if it is -- if we're able to pass a bill that actually moves the ball in the right direction," McConnell said.

President Obama, who today met with people who received deferred action status under his DREAM Act-style directive last year, praised the committee's action and took credit for the Group of Eight's bill in one fell swoop.

"A strong bipartisan vote is largely consistent with the principles of commonsense reform I have proposed and meets the challenge of fixing our broken immigration system," he said in a statement. "The process for considering this legislation has been open and inclusive with multiple hearings, and more than a hundred amendments were considered and adopted, in many cases with bipartisan support."

Obama singled out for special recognition Graham, Flake, and Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

"None of the Committee members got everything they wanted, and neither did I , but in the end, we all owe it to the American people to get the best possible result over the finish line," the president said. "I encourage the full Senate to bring this bipartisan bill to the floor at the at the earliest possible opportunity and remain hopeful that the amendment process will lead to further improvements."

Grassley, ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, said he "voted for amnesty for 3 million people in 1986, and it didn’t solve the problem."

"At the end of the day, the majority argued against securing the border for another decade.  The triggers in the bill that kick off legalization are inefficient, ineffective, and unrealistic.  All while amendments that managed to make the bill bigger and costlier were accepted," he said.

Grassley said the last hope he now has is for floor amendments that would strengthen the bill.

"Now the real work begins to see if we can reform this bill before we send it to the House of Representatives," the senator said. "We need a bill that truly balances our national security with our economic security."

The Senate is trying to plow through the farm bill before breaking for the Memorial Day recess. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters today that the immigration bill is the next priority.