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Senate Immigration Proposal Set Aside Indefinitely

June 8, 2007

After three weeks of acrimonious debate, cutting across party lines in the U.S. Senate and across the country, a bipartisan bill that would have overhauled the nation's immigration system was set aside indefinitely Thursday.

The action by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) came after two failed attempts Thursday to end the debate and head to a general vote on the legislation that offered legalization to 12 million undocumented immigrants. The last attempt for cloture Thursday evening came 15 votes shy of the 60 needed for approval.

After that vote, both sides of the debate blamed the other for failing in yet another attempt to fix the nation's immigration system. Another immigration reform bill that was passed by the Senate last year later died in the House.

It's unlikely that immigration reform would be picked up again in Congress this year with the presidential primary campaigns heating up in both parties, observers said. House leaders have said they will not act again on immigration reform until the Senate deals with the issue.

Reid, who accused conservative Republicans of trying to kill the bill with a storm of deal-breaking amendments, said he hoped to revisit the issue later this year. "We all have to work, the president included, to get this bill passed," he said.

Besides creating special visas for illegal immigrants in the country, SB 1348, known as the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, would have restructured legal immigration to give more weight to job skills and education over family ties to those in the U.S. The bill that was crafted last month by Senate leaders in both parties and top White House officials would have also created a temporary worker program offering at least 200,000 visas per year to foreign laborers.