Washington Senate leaders vowed Thursday night to revive stalled immigration legislation as soon as next week, capping a furious rescue attempt led by President Bush.
The decision, announced by Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and his Republican counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, envisions a final vote on the complex bill before lawmakers begin their Fourth of July vacation.
The legislation has generated intense controversy, particularly for provisions that could lead to eventual citizenship for many of the estimated 12 million immigrants now in the country unlawfully. The bill also calls for greater border security and a crackdown on the hiring of illegal employees.
Critics of the measure succeeded in sidetracking it last week, and given their continued opposition, the decision to bring it back for more debate does not necessarily portend passage.
Reid and McConnell announced their plans in a brief, two-sentence statement that capped days of private negotiations by key senators as well as Bush's personal involvement.
"We met this evening with several of the senators involved in the immigration bill negotiations," they said. Based on that discussion, the immigration bill will return to the Senate floor after completion of an unrelated energy measure now undergoing debate.
At the White House, spokesman Scott Stanzel said: "We are encouraged by the announcement from Senate leaders that comprehensive immigration reform will be brought back up for consideration."
Two days ago, Bush made a rare visit to the Capitol for a meeting with Republican senators, when he urged them to give the bill a second chance. Earlier on Thursday, responding to a request from pivotal GOP senators, he threw his support behind a plan for $4.4 billion in immediate funding for "securing our borders and enforcing our laws at the work site."
Precise details of the rescue plan were not immediately disclosed.
In general, according to officials familiar with the discussions, Republicans and Democrats will each have 10-12 opportunities to amend the measure, with the hope that they would then combine to provide the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster by die-hard opponents.
Officials said the Bush-backed plan for accelerated funding would be among the changes to be voted on.
So, too, would a proposal by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, to toughen a requirement for illegal immigrants to return to their home country before gaining legal status.