The Senate on Saturday rejected an effort to move ahead on a bill that would have provided a path to citizenship for people who arrived illegally in the United States as children.
The Senate voted 55 to 41 to end debate on the bill, falling short of the 60 votes needed. The outcome means the measure is essentially dead for the year.
Senators gave impassioned speeches for and against the bill, known as the Dream Act. The measure would have given illegal immigrants a chance to become citizens if they complete two years of college or military service.
Democrats argued the bill would end the limbo many young an talented illegal immigrants who say they can't join the military or certain professions because they are not legally in the country.
Republicans said the nation wants Congress to first tackle border security before turning to issues involving illegal immigrants who are already in the country.
The vote broke down mostly along party lines, although Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson, of Nebraska, voted against the Dream Act, while conservative Republican Sen. Robert Bennett, of Utah, who was voted out of office, voted in favor of the bill.
The House, where Democrats have a much larger majority, approved the Dream Act earlier this week.