Bush wants National Guard to fight illegal immigration

The vote was 55-40 against a proposal by Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, who said that anything less than a border security-first approach amounted to "a wink and a nod one more time to those who would come here" unlawfully.

Republican and Democratic supporters of the sweeping Senate bill said Isakson's approach would be self-defeating and derail the approach that Bush backed in Monday night's prime time speech from the White House Oval Office. "We have to have a comprehensive approach if we're going to gain control of the borders," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat.

In all, 36 Democrats and 18 Republicans joined with one independent to torpedo the amendment. Thirty-three Republicans and seven Democrats supported it, the AP reports.

Eager to blunt any political fallout from opposing Isakson's proposal, the bill's sponsors countered with an alternative of their own. Backed by Sen. Ken Salazar, a Colorado Democrat, it said immigration changes envisioned in the legislation could proceed if the president declared they were in the national security interests of the United States. It passed, 79-16.

The Senate cast its first votes on the immigration bill as Bush renewed his call for Congress to act. "The objective is, on the one hand, protect our borders; and, on the other hand, never lose sight of the thing that makes America unique which is, we're a land of immigrants and that we're not going to discriminate against people," he said at a news conference with Australian Prime Minister John Howard.