By Alan Silverleib, CNN Congressional Producer
Washington (CNN) -- The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" immigration reform bill on Tuesday, sending the measure to the Senate floor for consideration and giving the bill's backers their first major legislative victory.
Members of the Democratic-controlled panel voted 13-5 in favor of the measure.
If enacted, the plan would constitute the first overhaul of the nation's immigration policy since 1986.
"The dysfunction in our current immigration system affects all of us and it is long past time for reform. I hope that our history, our values, and our decency can inspire us finally to take action," Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said.
Spectators cramming the committee room applauded and cheered loudly following the vote.
The panel's 10 Democrats were joined in supporting the bill by three Republicans: Arizona's Jeff Flake, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, and Utah's Orrin Hatch. Flake and Graham are two of its four Republican authors.
Both party leaders in the Senate appeared supportive of the effort, a positive sign for backers hoping to win a solid majority in the full chamber.