Reid, Heller vote to start immigration reform debate in U.S. Senate

WASHINGTON — Nevada’s senators voted Tuesday to formally begin discussing landmark changes to the nation’s immigration laws, a debate over a highly charged issue expected to consume the Senate for the next three weeks.

It was no surprise that Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader and a leading advocate of immigration reform, voted to open debate.

“This is a time I’ve been looking for, for a long, long time,” Reid said. “It’s been a long road to get to this point. Now our goal is to pass a bill that stays true to our principles and with as many votes as possible.”

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., also voted to begin debate. He has said he was open to discussing immigration reforms although he has not said what he would vote for.

“While this is a promising piece of legislation, there are certain areas of the bill that must be addressed,” Heller said in a statement that did not detail his concerns. He said he was preparing amendments that are expected to be unveiled in the next few days.

The bill, formed by a bipartisan group of eight senators and passed largely intact by the Senate Judiciary Committee, would increase spending on border security while granting 11 million undocumented residents legal status and a path to eventual U.S. citizenship.

The vote to begin debate was 84-15. It came on the heels of a key 82-15 procedural vote to avert a filibuster, where 60 votes were needed for the bill to advance.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.