WASHINGTON -- A broad immigration bill to legalize millions of people in the United States failed a crucial test vote in the Senate yesterday, a stunning setback that could spell its defeat for the year.
The legislation, which had been endorsed by President George W. Bush, would tighten borders, institute a new system to prevent employers from hiring undocumented workers in addition to giving up to 12 million illegal immigrants a pathway to legal status.
Conceived by an improbable coalition, the measure exposed deep rifts within both parties and is loathed by most GOP conservatives.
The vote was 45-50 against limiting debate on the bill, 15 short of the 60 that the bill's supporters needed to prevail. Most Republicans voted to block Democrats' efforts to bring the bill to a final vote.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had made no secret of his distaste for parts of the bill, said earlier he would move on to other matters if the immigration measure's supporters didn't get 60 votes last night.
Most Republicans voted against ending debate, saying they needed more time to make the bill tougher with tighter border security measures and a more arduous legalization process for unlawful immigrants.
All but a handful of Democrats supported the bill, but many of them were concerned it makes second-class citizens of a new crop of temporary workers.