Beaten-Down Immigration Bill Will Rise AgainJune 14, 2007 - by Donny Shaw
>Senate leaders, under pressure from pro-immigration groups and facing a determined push by President Bush, agreed last night to bring a controversial overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws back to the Senate floor as early as next week.
>The bipartisan negotiators working on the immigration bill whittled hundreds of amendments down to a package of 11 amendments from Republicans and another 11 from Democrats and then presented their compromise to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (Miss.) indicated earlier that he could produce enough GOP votes to clear the 60-vote threshold to get the bill back to the floor and push it to a final vote.
What the above-quoted Washington Post article does not explain is that the 22 senators who got their amendment included in the final package have agreed to vote for cloture in exchange. Last time the bill was debated, it died because it was unable to get the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture and end the debate. This pay-to-play setup is the key arrangement giving Senate leaders Harry Reid (D, NV) and Mitch McConnell (R, KY) enough confidence to risk the embarrassment of a second failure and bring the bill back to the Senate.
Before this bill died the first time, its fate was sealed by the approval or Byron Dorgan’s (D, ND) poison-pill amendment to sunset the guestworker program after five years. The guestworker program is one of the bill’s essential provisions, and when it was amended to only last five years, almost all Republican support for the bill was lost. The Dorgan amendment will remain in the bill, but an informal agreement has been made with senators from both sides of the aisle to undo the amendment when the bill goes to a conference committee to be reconciled with a still-hypothetical House immigration bill.
The opportunity will exist again for amendments to alter the bill in a way that causes it to be rejected in the final vote. Included in the whittled-down amendment package is one from Kay Hutchinson (R, TX) that could have an effect similar to the Dorgan amendment:
>Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas, is likely to get a vote on her proposal to require illegal immigrants to return to their home countries before they could obtain legal status in the United States.
>That proposal is anathema to many Democrats and Hispanic groups, who say it would be unworkable. The bill already has a “touchback requirement,” but it would apply only to illegal immigrants who are heads of household and seek permanent-residence visas, or green cards. Such visas would become available eight years after the bill became law, at the earliest.
>By contrast, under Mrs. Hutchison’s proposal, adult illegal immigrants would generally have to leave the United States within two years if they wanted to apply for legal status, in the form of “Z visas.”
>“My amendment would take the amnesty out of this bill,” Mrs. Hutchison said. “It would say, if you are going to work in our country today or tomorrow or two years from now or 25 years from now, you will apply from outside the country to come in legally so we have control of our system.”
The immigration debate will begin again after the Senate finishes up work on an energy bill, most likely sometime next week.