After the last senator had cast his vote on the major immigration overhaul bill that passed the Senate Thursday, there was a long pause in the ornate chamber.
It was unusually packed: almost all senators were at their desks, and the public galleries were full. One section was full of young people wearing blue T-shirts supporting immigration reform: their shirts said "11 Million Dreams." They shushed each other, knowing what was coming. Plainclothes police stood in the aisle, waiting too.
"Expressions of approval or disapproval are not permitted," said Vice President Biden, presiding as Senate president. "The yeas on this bill are 68. The nays are 32. The bill as amended is passed."
There were claps. Then shushing. Then, briefly, silence. After all, the point of this legislation is that immigrants will become Americans by scrupulously following America's rules.
"I wanted to scream. But then they said not to. I screamed on the inside," said Manuel Martinez, 21, who immigrated from Mexico with his parents when he was four. He lives in Bridgeport, Conn., and does not have the residency permit known as a green card. Martinez, who was among the group in blue shirts, said he could join the military under the provisions of this bill.
The silence did not last. "Yes, we can! Yes, we can!" the group in blue chanted. "Thank you!" one man shouted, wearing a graduation gown.
"The Sergeant at Arms will restore order in the gallery," Biden said. Martinez's group filed out. Afterward, Martinez said he hoped that the large margin of victory for this bill would encourage action in the House.
"Every vote matters," he said. This one had been more exciting than he expected: "It's like, we could do it."