The procedural move failed in a tie vote, 50-50. Although largely symbolic, it was potent enough to attract the Democrats, including four who are in tough re-election battles this fall in conservative-leaning states. Republicans need to gain six seats to take Senate control.
Democrats who sided with the Texas Republican were Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, all in tight races to retain their seats. Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who is not up for re-election in November, also voted for the measure.
The proposal was modeled after legislation approved by the House that would undo Obama's executive order allowing young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to temporarily stay, and would prevent other similar actions.
Frank Sharry, executive director of the immigration advocacy group America's Voice, called it an "ugly, anti-immigrant proposal" that shows hard-liners are "firmly in control of the GOP's immigration strategy."
Some of the defecting Democrats had urged Obama this summer not to take executive action to legalize immigrants before the midterm election, worried that it could harm their campaigns in red states.
Many Republican and independent voters are wary of the White House's plans to conduct executive actions on immigration, viewing it as an overreach.
Obama has said he is acting on his own after House Republicans refused to engage in immigration reform. But, much to the disappointment of immigration advocates, the president postponed his promised actions until after the election.
Sessions said Senate Democrats had "enabled the administration's lawless scheme every step of the way."