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Immigration Bill Narrowly Survives Senate Challenge

A bipartisan immigration bill narrowly survived a potentially fatal challenge on Wednesday when the Senate turned back a Republican bid to limit the number of undocumented immigrants who could gain lawful status.

The close vote on a proposal by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, to bar felons from being allowed to gain legal status reflected the precarious nature of the controversial immigration bill, which remains under threat from both sides of the political spectrum.

The 51-46 vote against the amendment saw Democrats succeeded in sapping support from Cornyn's amendment by winning adoption of a rival version that would bar a more limited set of criminals, including certain gang members and sex offenders, from gaining legalization. The Senate backed that amendment 66-32.

Cornyn had painted his effort as a key vote for any presidential candidate - a sign of the degree to which the contentious debate is bleeding over into the Republican campaign fray.

The amendment "is a defining issue for those who seek the highest office in the land to demonstrate their respect for the rule of law and to demonstrate their desire to return law and order to our immigration system," Cornyn said.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. — alone among his party's presidential aspirants in backing the immigration measure — opposed Cornyn's bid and backed the Democratic alternative offered by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.

From The Associated Press

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