A landmark bipartisan plan to overhaul the nation’s immigration system cleared its first major hurdle Tuesday when the legislation was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee without any significant alterations. The bill, which includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, was passed with the support of Democrats and Republicans by a 13-5 vote. It now heads to the Senate floor, where debate is expected to begin early next month.
The vote came after the committee deliberated for five days and considered more than 150 amendments. But the Gang of Eight, which drafted the legislation, held together and fended off all but minor changes.
The landmark immigration legislation cleared the committee after an emotional debate over a provision to allow gay Americans to sponsor their foreign-born spouses for green cards. The measure was a top priority of several Democrats and the gay-rights community, but including it threatened to derail the entire legislation, as top Republican negotiators such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said they couldn’t support the Gang of Eight compromise if the amendment were included.
Approval of the bill from committee without the gay-rights amendment increases its overall chances of passage on the Senate floor. Meanwhile, a House group is struggling with producing a bill of its own.