WASHINGTON - A broad immigration bill to legalize millions of people in the United States unlawfully failed a crucial test vote in the Senate yesterday, a stunning setback that could spell its defeat for the year.
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.
The legislation, which had been endorsed by President Bush, would tighten borders, institute a new system to prevent employers from hiring undocumented workers, and give up to 12 million illegal immigrants a pathway to legal status.
Senate Majority Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said earlier he would move on to other matters if the immigration measure's supporters didn't get 60 votes.
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.
Most Democrats supported the move, but even many of them argued the bill makes second-class citizens of temporary workers and rips apart families.