Senator Patrick Leahy (D- Vermont) moved the Irish immigration bill in the US Senate on Friday but Republicans did not allow it to pass.

The move by Leahy, the powerful Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was seen as an opening gambit to try and ensure the bill’s passage in January.

The E3 Irish bill would allow 10,000 Irish to come to America and work legally every year. The bill was created by Senator Chuck Schumer and has overwhelming Democratic Party support. It would also allow waivers for Irish undocumented who wish to apply for it.

Leahy’s bill attached the E3 visa bill onto a bill that previously passed the US House giving more green cards to emigrants from Mexico, China, India and The Philippines.

Two Republicans have signed on to a different bill that would not allow the undocumented waivers. Senator Scott brown and Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois have approved the E 3 provision.

Experts say waivers could still be achieved administratively rather than by the Houses of Congress.

With wide Democratic support, bill supporters are looking for 7-10 Republicans to sign on to give the bill a supermajority of sixty votes.

That would then send the bill back to the House and then to a Senate House conference for discussion.

The earlier bill in the House version passed unanimously without the E3 provision that was included after strong lobbying by Irish groups across the United States and the involvement of the Irish government.

Irish activists are seeking to deliver more republican votes in the weeks ahead with particular focus on Senator Scott Brown delivering party colleagues to agree to pass the bill.

Insiders say the bill has a decent chance of passing with some estimating a 50-50 chance of it becoming law.