The proposed immigration Bill to legalise millions of illegal workers in the United States has suffered a serious setback after a Democratic-led effort to speed up its passage in the Senate failed.
Supporters of a 'cloture' (limiting a debate on the house floor) on the Bill, which is endorsed by President George W Bush, could muster only 45 of the 60 votes needed, with 50 senators from both the Democratic and Republican camps opposing it.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who is not a keen backer of the compromised Bill, quickly pulled it from the floor, saying "We are finished with this for the time being."
The future of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill, a compromise product of three months of bipartisan negotiations, now looks uncertain even though Reid maintained the issue could be taken up again later this year. "We all have to work, the President included, to find a way to get this Bill passed," he said.
Proponents of the proposed legislation insisted there was still hope despite the blow in the Senate.
"This matter is on life support, but it is not dead," said Republican Senator Arlen Specter, a central architect of the plan, the New York Times reported.
"The vote was obviously a big disappointment, but it makes no sense to fold our tent, and I certainly don't intend to," said Democrat Senator Edward M Kennedy, another chief author of the Bill.
Senate conservatives fought the legislation from the start, saying that it rewarded those who broke the law. Around 12 million illegal immigrants will qualify for citizenship under the proposed measure.
Meanwhile, a South Asian advocacy group in the US slammed the proposed legislation for eliminating certain family-based visa categories and warned it will have a devastating impact on the community.
"The bill being considered fails to adequately meet any of the principles needed for comprehensive immigration reform. As it stands, the Bill will have a devastating impact on the South Asian community," the South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow( SAALT), a major immigration advocacy group, said in a statement.
The Senate Bill proposed to raise the H-1B visa numbers from the current 65,000 to at least 115,000 or perhaps even as high as 180,000 over a period of time. But senior law makers have said companies that resort to mass layoffs cannot use the H-1B facility.