Washington (CNN) — The U.S. Senate gave final approval Thursday to a roughly 1,200-page bill that promises to overhaul immigration laws for the first time since 1986, creating a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented residents while ratcheting up security along the Mexican border.
Senators passed the sweeping legislation — initially drafted by the four Democrats and four Republicans in the chamber’s so-called “Gang of Eight” — by a 68-32 vote.
Fourteen Republicans joined a united Democratic caucus in supporting the bill, which is backed by the White House and has the potential to become the crowning legislative achievement of President Barack Obama’s second term.
In a White House statement, Obama hailed the Senate vote as “a critical step” toward fixing what he called a broken immigration system. He labeled the measure that now goes to the Republican-controlled House a compromise, adding that “we just need Congress to finish the job.”
The Senate vote included a rare adherence to old-fashioned protocol. Vice President Joe Biden presided in his constitutional capacity as head of the Senate, and senators voted one-by-one from their desks, calling out “aye” or “no.”