WASHINGTON (Gannett News Service) - Sen. Jim DeMint's bid to stop the Obama administration's lawsuit over Arizona's immigration law failed Wednesday.
The vote was 43-55 along mostly partisan lines.
The South Carolina Republican and Louisiana GOP Sen. David Vitter sought to prohibit the White House from using federal funds to finance the lawsuit, which the U.S. Department of Justice filed earlier this month. The senators wanted to attach their measure to legislation extending unemployment benefits.
Before the vote, DeMint accused the White House of trying to "intimidate" Arizona for seeking to enforce federal immigration law.
The federal government failed in its duty to secure the border and Arizona is merely trying to protect its citizens, DeMint said on the Senate floor, adding that the law doesn't advocate racial profiling but expressly forbids it.
"This is something we know the American people - if they could vote here today - would vote in favor of," DeMint said. "The question is will the majority vote to support the people of Arizona or to support this political move that we're now seeing from the White House?"
The Justice Department argues that Arizona is violating the Constitution by trying to usurp the federal government's sole authority to regulate immigration. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to block the law from taking effect on July 29.
South Carolina has joined eight other states - Michigan, Alabama, Florida, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas and Virginia - and the Northern Mariana Islands in filing a legal brief supporting the Arizona law.
The Senate also rejected, by a vote of 39-59, a separate DeMint measure to permanently repeal a real estate tax that critics call the "death tax."
By RAJU CHEBIUM
Gannett Washington Bureau
(Contributing: Erin Kelly, Gannett Washington Bureau)