Obama Says Moment for Immigration Bill Is Now; Senate Agrees

The Senate will debate an historic bill to reform the nation's immigration laws.

Posted: 06/11/2013 03:30 PM EDT

Senate lawmakers appear to have taken to heart President Obama's impassioned plea earlier today to push forward a bill to overhaul U.S. immigration rules. By a vote of 82 to 15, the upper chamber agreed to open debate on a proposal crafted by a bipartisan group of senators known as the Gang of Eight.

Speaking from the White House East Room in the hours leading up to the vote, Obama said the legislation is an imperfect but common-sense compromise. 

"It will build on what we've done and continue to strengthen our borders. It will make sure that businesses and workers are all playing by the same set of rules. And it includes tough penalties for those who don't," Obama said. "It's fair for middle-class families by making sure that those who are brought into the system pay their fair share in taxes and for services. And it's fair for those who try to immigrate legally by stopping those who try to skip the line."

The legislation is expected to be the Senate's top priority before lawmakers break for the Fourth of July holiday. But, even though today's procedural vote passed by a wide margin, that is by no means a guarantee that the actual bill will enjoy similar success. 

In fact, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, one-quarter of the Gang of Eight's Republican half, has in the past several weeks repeatedly said he cannot support it unless substantial changes are made. And, he's not alone.

"It’s time for the Gang of 100 to do its work — for the entire Senate to have its say on this issue, and see if we can do something to improve the status quo," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday from the Senate floor. "At the risk of stating the obvious, this bill has serious flaws. I’ll vote to debate it and for the opportunity to amend it, but in the days ahead there will need to be major changes to this bill if it’s going to become law."

The president in his Tuesday morning remarks acknowledged that changes will be made to the bill in the coming weeks, but also warned that some opponents may "try to gin up fear and create division." He called on Americans who support immigration reform to make their voices heard to ensure that lawmakers "do the right thing."

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 (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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