The comprehensive immigration reform bill passed a huge hurdle on Tuesday night with the Senate Judiciary Committee voting 13-5 for passage out of the committee and on to the senate floor.
Included in the provision were 10,500 E3 visas for Irish recipients which will allow Irish natives to renew non immigrant visas every two years. The visas, known as Schumer visas after Senator Chuck Schumer of New York who has been their major proponent, would transform Irish immigration to America. Up to 50,000 Irish undocumented would be covered by the legalization provision in the bill.
Republican senator Charles Grassley had attempted to strip the Irish E3 visas from the bill but failed to get any support.
Three Republicans sided with ten Democrats to pass the bill giving it a very strong 13-5 majority which will boost its chances on the senate floor where debate is expected to last several weeks in June.
Democrats dropped an amendment allowing gay spouses to become legal through their partner’s green card, a contentious issue that threatened to scuttle the bill. All ten Democrats could have forced the vote through but to have done so would have ended the bill.
Senator Schumer stated, “As much as it pains me, I cannot support this amendment if it will bring down the bill.”
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell has signalled that he will push for passage of the bill put together by four senators from both sides.
“The Gang of Eight has made a substantial contribution to moving the issue forward. So far, I’m told that the Judiciary Committee has not in any fundamental way undone the agreement reached by the eight senators, so I’m hopeful we’ll be able to get a bill we can pass here in the Senate,” he stated.
A separate bill will likely be introduced in the House where its prospects are still uncertain but there is growing momentum behind the bill from the successful senate negotiations.
If both bills pass then a conference will be called to work out the differences, both houses will vote on the compromise and if it is passed President Obama will sign it into law.