Harry Reid: 'Republicans Are Wasting the American People's Time' With Attempt to Detain Criminal Illegal Aliens

By Susan Jones | October 21, 2015 | 7:24 AM EDT

A vigil for Kathryn Steinle took place on July 6, 2015, on Pier 14 in San Francisco. Steinle was gunned down while out for an evening stroll at Pier 14 with her father and a family friend on Wednesday, July 1. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)

(CNSNews.com) - Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked legislation that would have withheld funding for "sanctuary cities," which shield criminal illegal immigrants from federal immigration authorities.

The bill needed 60 votes to advance, but it received only 54. Two Democrats (Joe Manchin of W.Va. and Joe Donnelly of Indiana) voted to advance the bill; and one Republican (Mark Kirk of Illinois) voted to block it.

Before the vote, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid accused Republicans of wasting the American people's time:

"Republicans are wasting the American people's time with a partisan vote on the Donald Trump Act. That's what we're going to vote on at 2:15. That's what the House members have called it, and I think it's a pretty good description of what we're doing out there," Reid told a news conference on Tuesday.

Appearing with Reid, Sen. Chuck Schumer called it a "show vote" -- Republican grandstanding for political reasons.

The legislation blocked in the Senate stems from the July 1 shooting of Kate Steinle in San Francisco. The man accused of killing her, Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez, was in the country illegally despite a long criminal record and five prior deportations.

Because San Francisco is a sanctuary city for illegal aliens, local police released Sanchez despite a request from federal immigration authorities to keep him behind bars. A short time later, Kate Steinle was dead.

The Republican legislation blocked on Tuesday would have withheld some federal funding for sanctuary cities. It also included a provision called Kate's Law, which would set a five-year, mandatory minimum sentence for any illegal immigrant who re-enters the U.S after having been convicted of an aggravated felony, or having been twice convicted of illegally re-entering the U.S.

The House of Representatives passed similar legislation in July.

In a speech on the Senate floor before the vote, Reid defended states' and communities' right to "do the things they think are appropriate." But Republican Sen. John Cornyn argued that sanctuary cities are nullifying federal immigration law by refusing to enforce it.

Reid also said the mandatory sentencing provisions included in the bill would require an estimated "15 new, huge prisons -- just to  handle the people (criminal illegal aliens) that would be arrested. Huge prisons, costing billions of dollars. It's not smart police policy, it's not smart budget policy," Reid said.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) one of the bill's co-sponsors, said he will now try to get a vote on a stand-alone Kate's Law.

"Let's have a vote on just Kate's Law. Let's put that on the Senate floor," Toomey told Fox News's Bill O'Reilly Tuesday night.

O'Reilly asked why Kate's Law was coupled with the bill defunding sanctuary cities in the first place:

"Because here is the reason," Toomey replied. "Kate's Law is all about a mandatory sentence on people who should be locked up for a mandatory period of time. But Bill, you actually have to have the guy to convict him and put him away.

"Sanctuary cities prevent you from grabbing the guy, as you know. The San Francisco police had the guy. And when DHS said hold him for us, we want to get him, they said oh, no, we are a sanctuary city and they released him. In order to get him, you have got to end sanctuary cities."

Toomey said Democrats probably won't pass Kate's Law, either -- "because they are so adamantly opposed to any mandatory minimum sentencing. I hope I'm wrong," he said.

"We ought to have that vote and put them on record," he added. "We can separately have the vote on ending sanctuary cities. They don't work without each other, Bill. We need them both."

Toomey repeated that he already has made his case to Senate leaders, "and I'm going to make it again. We ought to have those votes."

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