WASHINGTON -- The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bipartisan "gang of eight" immigration bill on Tuesday in a 13 to 5 vote after a marathon final day of markup that stretched into the evening.
All Democrats on the committee, along with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and gang of eight Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), voted in favor of the bill, which will now go to the Senate floor. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who voted against the bill out of committee, said he would support allowing it to move forward for debate -- rather than joining a filibuster -- once on the Senate floor. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who was also a "no" vote, said if it had been between his vote and moving the bill to the Senate floor, he would have voted in favor.
The crowd in the room erupted into applause when the final vote tally was read, rising to their feet and chanting "Yes we can!" then "Si se puede!"
Democrats seemed equally pleased to vote the bill out of committee.
"The dysfunction in our current immigration system affects all of us and it is long past time for reform," Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said before the bill's passage. "I hope that our history, our values, and our decency can inspire us finally to take action. We need an immigration system that lives up to American values and helps write the next great chapter in American history by reinvigorating our economy and enriching our communities."
The bill came out of months of work from the gang of eight, which in addition to Graham and Flake includes Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). It includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a streamlined legal immigration process, tougher interior enforcement and increased border security.