Senate votes to start debate on emergency border bill

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted on Wednesday to take up a $2.7 billion Democratic spending bill to address the southern border crisis.

Lawmakers voted 63-33 on a procedural vote to begin debate on the emergency measure prompted by the deluge of migrant youth from Central America who have entered the country illegally this year.

The bill does not include controversial changes to a 2008 law to expedite deportations. Republicans and the White House have said the anti-trafficking law needs to be modified.

But most Democrats oppose the change, arguing that children, especially those unaccompanied and fleeing violence, need the extra protections in that law.

Tens of thousands of migrant youth from Central America have streamed across the southern border this year, overwhelming related services and creating what most agree is a humanitarian crisis.

The issue has become the latest political flashpoint in the overall immigration debate ahead of November midterms.

Passage uncertain

While 11 Senate Republicans voted to take up the bill on Tuesday, that doesn't signal it is headed toward passage.

Those same Republicans will likely block going to a final vote unless Democrats agree to allow votes on numerous GOP amendments to change the bill. Democrats are not expected to allow that.

More votes could come as early as Thursday.

Congress is set to leave town at the end of the week for its August recess and some House and Senate members are concerned about potential political fallout if they leave Washington without addressing the issue.

But Democrats Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina, facing tough re-election campaigns in their Republican-leaning states, voted against taking up the bill.

In the House, Republican leaders are struggling to come up with enough votes to pass their version of a border funding bill.

They scaled back their proposal this week, unveiling a $659 million measure aimed at bringing conservatives on board.

While Speaker John Boehner told reporters that he believed "there is sufficient support" for the bill, he also admitted he had "a little more work to do."

The new GOP plan is significantly smaller than the $3.7 billion request sought by President Barack Obama to address the crisis.

There is little optimism that a deal could be reached with Senate Democrats any time soon.

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