U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., might be just a freshman lawmaker, but on Tuesday he demonstrated he can speak Spanish at a senior level.
Kaine, who spent part of his college years as a missionary in Honduras, became the first senator of recent memory to deliver a floor speech entirely in Spanish when he advocated Tuesday for immigration reform in the Senate chamber. The remarks came just after Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the chamber's most prominent Hispanic voice, laid out the merits of the Senate immigration proposal.
Shortly after Kaine spoke, the Senate voted 82-15 to advance the immigration measure for debate.
Kaine said it was important to debate the bill in English and Spanish because the latter has been spoken in the country for centuries and its the primary language of more than 40 million Americans.
"I understand that some doubt remains as to whether or not this bill will fix our broken immigration system," Kaine said, according to an English translation. "While not perfect, I can confidently stand here today and say this bill will do more for border security, more to improve our current backlog, more to strengthen our employment verification system and more to put measures in place to deal with the future flow of immigrants -- compared to any other immigration bill in history."
Kaine narrated his own Spanish-language ad in his Senate race last year against former Gov. George Allen. Kaine went on to win 62 percent of the Hispanic vote, slightly less than President Obama got in Virginia.
For his efforts Tuesday, Kaine was ribbed by his political mentor and the state's senior senator, Democrat Mark Warner. On Twitter, Warner called Kaine a "show off."