WASHINGTON– Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) was one of only 15 Senators to vote Tuesday against advancing the bi-partisan immigration reform bill. All 15 no votes were Republicans, who on two roll calls voted no when it came to moving the bill forward.
Kirk found himself in the minority of the minority on this one: there are 46 Republicans in the Senate, with the GOP picking up one more on Monday, when Sen. Jeff Chiesa (R-NJ) was sworn-in to replace the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).
The vote was 82-15 on a procedural matter, called a “cloture” vote on a “motion to proceed,” where at least 60 votes were needed to avoid a filibuster. With that hurdle cleared, the Senate voted 84-15 to approve the “motion to proceed,” where a simple majority was needed.
The bi-partisan immigration bill needed to clear those hurdles in order for the Senate to debate and vote on the substance of the measure.
Though Kirk voted against even taking up bi-partisan immigration reform, he is being targeted as a gettable yes vote. Former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar, a Republican and other Illinois civic and corporate leaders have urged Kirk to back the bill.
Kirk has said his objection are over security issues, and his spokesman, Lance Trover said in a statement, Kirk “hoped to see a bipartisan strategy to strengthen border security first, before moving forward. Instead it appears the Senate approach is once again falling along partisan lines.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of the bi-partisan “Gang of Eight” sponsoring the immigration overhaul, told me he has not yet talked to Kirk directly,”But we will over time. We will be talking to everybody.”
The next step, Graham said, is find out “What would you like to see in the bill to be made better? Is it legal immigration? Is it border security? There are some folks that I think are very gettable.”
The Senate Gang of Eight is looking for 70 Senate votes–in order to send a strong message to House Republicans.
After clearing the procedural hurdles on Tuesday, the Gang of Eight–of which Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is also a member– will start to deal with an expected heavy load of proposed amendments, a process that could take days. The challenge of the “Gang” is to find amendments that will bring in Republicans–but not up force other Senators to drop off the bill.
Meanwhile, The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) said in a statement they are “puzzled and outraged by Senator Mark Kirk’s vote.
“His vote demonstrates how out of touch he is with his constituents, and may cause permanent damage between the Illinois Republican Party and Latino and immigrant voters. “What was he thinking?” said Lawrence Benito, ICIRR’s CEO. The vote is an indication that Senator Kirk is not interested in having a Senate debate about immigration reform. Instead, he chose to play politics with the “optics” on the border and side with the extremists in his party. By siding with the most extreme in his party, Senator Kirk shows how out of touch he is with Illinois business, women, faith, labor and community leaders.”
In Chicago, Ald. Danny Solis (25th) said a group of city, state and Cook County Latino officials will hold a press conference on Thursday in Pilsen to “basically ask Sen. Mark Kirk to take a leadership role” on immigration and “stop practicing the politics of stupidity.”
The SEIU Illinois State Council said in a statement they were “surprised and very disappointed” by Kirk’s vote “against the best chance we have to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year.”