Both of Tennessee's U.S. senators were adamantly against a motion that passed and officially revived the immigration reform bill in the Senate on Tuesday.
U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, two Republicans, were on the losing end of a 64-35 Senate vote to move toward a decision on the 700-page piece of legislation.
"I voted against ending debate on the current immigration bill because I think it needs a lot more work," Alexander said in a conference call with reporters. "The vote today was about bringing the debate to an end, and we're not ready to bring the debate to an end on the immigration bill. We're having a very limited debate here in a body that is supposed to be the greatest deliberative body in the world. We need to have full and free debate on how we secure the border; how we get rid of the amnesty in the bill; how do we help legal immigrants learn English, our heritage and our culture; and how we do a better job of helping skilled workers and researchers who have always helped create jobs for Americans to make it easier for them to come to the United States."
Corker said in a prepared release that he will vote against the bill in its final form as well.
"I believe a better approach would be a more modest bill that focuses on border security, employer identification, and putting systems in place that will put us in a position to actually enforce a new immigration policy," Corker said. "We have lost credibility in Washington on this issue, and before the American people will be willing to get behind an immigration policy, we need to demonstrate to them that the federal government is going to do what it says it will do, especially when it comes to securing our border."
If the bill passes in the Senate, it would go to the Democrat-controlled House for more debate.
Alexander said he favors a so-called "touchback" amendment to the bill that would require people to pay a fine and pass a criminal background check to "come back into the country" through legal channels.
"That goes a long way toward taking amnesty out of the bill. That's a step in the right direction ... but it may not be sufficient," Alexander said of the amendment.
He also favors creating a worker verification system using a biometric "smart" card.
"Most of the illegal immigration problem is related to work," Alexander said. "The idea would be that if you can't get hired in the United States unless you are legally here, you will either go home or find a way to be legally here."
For more about the bill go www.senate.gov. The bill's number is S. 1639.