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Senators Look for Consensus on Border Amendment

Washington — Key Senate Republicans are working to develop a compromise on border security that would satisfy GOP demands for stronger enforcement language in a far-reaching immigration bill without costing Democratic support, lawmakers and aides said yesterday.

To win over skeptical Republicans, senators are considering mandating specific requirements for equipment and other tools along the U.S.-Mexico border, instead of just leaving it up to the Obama administration, said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., an author of the bill.

“That may be a way to assuage the concern of some of our friends that are concerned about border security,” McCain said. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., another author, has discussed the same approach.

The talks were under way behind-the-scenes at the Capitol yesterday even as the Senate voted 53 to 47 to defeat an amendment by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, that would have required a controlled border for six months before any immigrant here illegally could take the first steps toward citizenship. It was the first amendment the Senate voted on to the White House-backed immigration legislation.

The outcome suggested that bill supporters have work to do to lock down the 60 votes that will likely be needed to overcome GOP stalling tactics and get it passed in the Senate by July Fourth, the timeline set by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The bill, which would amount to the most significant changes to immigration law in decades, would require all employers to check workers’ legal status, allow tens of thousands of new high- and low-skilled workers into the country, and create a 13-year path to citizenship for some 11 million people now here illegally.