Thursday, June 7, 2007

Immigration Bill Suffers Setback in Senate Vote

WASHINGTON, June 7 — Supporters of a comprehensive immigration bill suffered a setback early this morning when the Senate voted to put a five-year limit on a new guest worker program that would be created under the legislation.

By a vote of 49 to 48 shortly after midnight, the Senate approved an amendment by Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, to end the program after five years.

The temporary worker program is an important element of the “grand bargain” on immigration forged in three months of negotiations by a small bipartisan group of senators.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, is pressing the Senate to wrap up work on the bill after two weeks of debate. A vote on whether to bring the debate to a close is scheduled for today.

Republicans said they needed more time to offer, debate and vote on amendments to the bill, which calls for the biggest changes in immigration law in more than two decades.

The vote on Mr. Dorgan’s amendment was a surprise because the Senate had previously rejected a similar proposal.