The U.S. Senate has broken a political deadlock that threatens funding for the Department of Homeland Security - the government agency that patrols the country's borders and airports against possible terrorists.
Senators voted 98 to 2 Wednesday to debate and vote on a so-called "clean funding bill" for the department - one without any other issues attached to it.
The House of Representatives passed a Homeland Security bill several weeks ago. But it included Republican provisions banning funding for President Barack Obama's executive order blocking more than 4 million people who came to the U.S. illegally from deportation.
Senate Democrats refused to accept the House bill and Obama had threatened to veto it.
Wednesday's Senate vote splits the bill into two separate measures - one to fund the Department of Homeland Security and another on immigration.
If Congress cannot pass a Homeland Security funding bill by Friday night, the department will run out of money. About 30,000 workers could be laid off while 200,000 others would be working without pay.
Homeland Security patrols the country's borders, staffs security checkpoints at airports, and protects Obama and his family.
Republicans opposed to the president's immigration policies accuse him of overstepping his authority. But the president insists he is acting legally.
His executive order includes expanding a program protecting young immigrants from deportation if their parents illegally brought them to the United States.
The government had planned to start taking applications to avoid deportation last week. But a judge in Texas halted the president's orders. The government is appealing that decision.