The panel’s vote, 12 to 6, cleared the way for the full Senate debate on immigration reform, beginning March 28.
“All Americans wanted fairness and they got it this evening,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who played a major role in drafting the legislation.
Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., voted for the bill but signaled that some of the provisions could well be changed by the full Senate.
In general, the bill is designed to strengthen border patrol, create new opportunities for guestworkers, and determine the future of the estimated 12 million immigrants living in the United States without documentation.
At several critical points, committee Democrats were united, while Republicans splintered. In general, GOP Senators Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, Sam Brownback of Kansas and Mike DeWine of Ohio, who is seeking re-election this fall, sided with Democrats.
That gave Democrats a majority that allowed them to shape the bill to their liking.
Related articles on page 3 and 9.
ROI's Rally in Opposition to HR 4437 Photos