Georgia's two Republican senators said they opposed limiting debate on a catch-all immigration amendment Monday evening.
The two senators were among those missing the vote because of weather-related flight delays. A plane at Reagan National Airport also went off the runway and into the mud. Senate leaders held the vote open for an unusually long time in order to allow lawmakers battling delays time to get back to the Capitol, reminding everyone in attendance that Senate vote times are merely minimums.
The vote ran for more than an hour, but neither Sen. Saxby Chambliss nor Johnny Isakson could make it back for the vote to limit debate on an amendment that included a giant border security increase pushed by GOP Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota. Supporters got 67 votes, easily clearing the 60-vote hurdle. They would've been expected to get two more from absent Democrats Mark Udall and Sherrod Brown, but without the backing of either Georgia senator, it seems the advocates would've fallen just short of 70 on this test vote.
"I regret that I missed today's vote because my first flight was canceled and my next flight was delayed by bad weather. Had I been here for the vote, I would have voted no on this motion to end debate on this amendment," said Isakson. "While I appreciate and applaud the vast improvements in the border security provisions, I feel there were still too many waivers and other loopholes that could have allowed green cards to be issued before our nation’s borders were truly secured."
"We all know our immigration system is broken and we need to fix it. However, we should be having a full and open debate on solutions, not rushing to finish the bill before Sen. Reid's artificial deadline," Chambliss said in his statement, echoing comments made by other Republicans claiming that Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., acted too quickly to preclude the offering of amendments.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., was among those late arriving to the vote because of flight issues. He voted in favor of moving forward.
"It is the constitutional responsibility of the president and Congress to write the rules for a legal immigration system and to enforce them. As this legislation reaches its final form, I will be examining it closely to determine whether it creates an effective immigration system that respects the rule of law," he said.
In one of the more interesting statements about the vote, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said that she supported parts of the amendment, but in her view the tens of billions of dollars in new border spending went too far.
"The amendment considered by the Senate tonight would deploy and station an additional 20,000 Border Patrol agents along the southern border. This unprecedented surge is excessive, wasteful, and would be enormously expensive at an estimated cost of $25-$30 billion," she said in a statement. "I am hopeful that the House will lower this figure to a more realistic number before any final bill is considered."
Collins was among the 67 senators voting yes on Monday's procedural vote. If all debate time is used, the next cloture vote is likely to take place Wednesday on the Judiciary Committee's version of the bill (as amended on the floor). The third and final vote on limiting debate could come 30 hours after that, with passage following another 30 hours after that.
Corker told reporters Monday evening that work was ongoing on an agreement that could permit up to 10 amendments from each side. Such an agreement could cut down on the number of hours that need to run before work's finished, meeting Reid's Fourth of July recess deadline.
Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.