The Senate opened up debate on Tuesday with two procedural votes, with an additional vote scheduled and withdrawn on Monday. These two votes passed first 82-15, then 84-15. They represent a big win for immigration reform supporters.
First: Monday, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Majority Leader, had initially planned to begin the immigration debate on Monday. However, the Senate Farm bill wasn’t quite done, so the first scheduled vote was withdrawn.
What happened here is that for cloture votes, the Majority Leader generally files three to build in flexibility for situations like this one, as each cloture filing takes a minimum of one day and an hour to be ready for a vote, referred to as ripening.
On Tuesday, the Senate record displays the following:
Cloture on the motion to proceed to measure invoked in Senate by Yea-Nay Vote. 82 – 15. Record Vote Number: 146. (consideration: CR S4086; text: CR S4086)
Motion to proceed to consideration of measure agreed to in Senate by Yea-Nay Vote. 84 – 15. Record Vote Number: 147. (consideration: CR S4093)”
Here’s what happened. In the first case, Sen. Reid’s cloture motion was ripe and voted on, requiring a 60 vote minimum to succeed. Cloture is the inverse to the filibuster, i.e. unlimited debate, so a cloture vote is to end debate.
In this case, the base debate was on whether or not to begin debate on the Comprehensive Immigration Bill. Confusing, yes. Following the successful ending of the base debate, the Senate proceeded to vote to begin debate on the bill itself, which also succeeded.
That’s where the situation in the Senate stands now—we’re on to the legislation itself.