Backers of the controversial immigration reform bill in the Senate got the 60 votes they needed to clear procedural hurdles and resurrect the bill today.

Two weeks ago, only 45 senators supported a vote for cloture that would cut off debate and proceed to a vote.

Today, the senators who voted 64-35 to move the legislation forward included 24 Republicans, 39 Democrats and independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. In opposition were 25 Republicans, nine Democrats and independent Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont.

The roll call, showing how each senator voted, can be seen here.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who co-sponsored the bill along with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called the vote “a major step forward for our national security, for our economy, and for our humanity.”

“We did the right thing today because we know the American people sent us here to act on our most urgent problems. We know they will not stand for small political factions getting in the way,” Kennedy said in a statement.

The Senate is scheduled to resume debate this afternoon, addressing some of the more than two dozen amendments that could make or break the bill.

A cloture vote to close debate, requiring 60 senators, is expected to take place Thursday, followed by a final tally, possibly Friday, which will require only a simple majority.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada plans to use a rare maneuver known as a “clay pigeon” to advance a predetermined set of Republican and Democratic amendments and vote quickly on them.

Republican Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Jeff Sessions of Alabama wrote Reid yesterday in opposition to the prodecure, charging it would “shut off the debate” and “silence amendments.”

Reid, in reply, acknowledged the move was unusual but insisted it was necessary to prevent a filibuster by Republicans. The Nevada Democrat said the procedure is supported by the Republicans’ Senate leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and the White House.

In a closed-door meeting of House Republicans this morning, Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., offered a resolution signaling widespread displeasure with the Senate bill, the Politico reported.

The proposal reads: “Resolved, that the House Republican Conference disapproves of the Senate immigration bill.”

Hoekstra said a “growing majority of House Republicans are uncomfortable with the product and process of the Senate immigration bill.”

“A public hearing has never been held on it, and it was crafted in secret by only 12 senators and two cabinet officials,” he said.

Shortly before Hoekstra introduced the measure, House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio notified the White House.

“I won’t say they were happy about it,” Boehner said.

As WND reported, despite a vigorous White House effort to rally support for the bill, only 22 percent of Americans favor it, according to a new national survey.

The plan would provide a path to legal status for the estimated 12-20 million illegal aliens now in the U.S. Opponents call the provision amnesty, because it allows illegals to acquire a “probationary” visa after only a quick, 24-hour background check. The White House contends the carefully crafted compromise would focus first on enforcement, allowing for more Border Patrol agents, more cameras and other technologies.

Editor’s note: The current edition of WND’s monthly Whistleblower is a cutting-edge look at the federal government’s immigration policies – and how the nation’s most vexing problem can be solved. It’s titled “NATIONAL SUICIDE: How the government’s immigration policies are destroying America.”

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Only 22% of Americans favor immigration bill

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