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Senate Votes to Take On Immigration, Again

June 26, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Comprehensive immigration reform is officially back on the table. This afternoon, the Senate agreed by a vote of 46-35 to move forward once again with the immigration debate. They will debate a revised version of the immigration bill that died on a procedural vote on June 7th.

The revised bill is numbered S.1639. It has all off the parts that people opposed in the previous bill — namely a path to citizenship for current illegal immigrants and a temporary guestworker program — with some newly added security measures. First, It would set aside $4.4 billion in an “immigration Security Account” that it would establish to be used to help the Department of Homeland Security achieve the border security goals it outlines. Several of the security goals, also known as “benchmarks” or “triggers” because they are requirements that must be implemented before the bill’s other provisions take effect, have been beefed up. The new bill would require the deployment of more border patrol agents, the installation of more border fence and vehicle barrier on the southern border, the creation of a tracking system to keep track of guestworkers, and the resources for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain more aliens at the border. But many think that these new border security provisions still aren’t tough enough — pictured above is Senator David Vitter (D, LA) explaining why he thinks the bill is still too weak on security.

Debate on the bill will be over by Friday. Between now and then, the Senate will vote on 24 amendments — twelve Democratic and twelve Republican — that have been selected by Senate leaders Harry Reid (D, NV) and Mitch McConnell (R, KY). Reid, the Majority Leader, is planning to use a rare parliamentary procedure known as a “”http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/bw-cong/2007/jun/18/061805613.html">clay pigeon" to ensure that these 24 amendments are voted on. A side effect of this procedure is that senators who did not manage to get their amendments included in this group of 24 will be barred from offering them at all. Whether or not this procedure will allow a more fair amending process is an issue of contention. Michelle Malkin has posted a letter to Reid from a group of senators concerned with the fairness of this process, as well as Reid’s response to them.

A procedural vote requiring 60 votes to end the debate will take place on Thursday. If, after the bill has been altered by the amendment process, there are still 60 senators willing to continue moving forward with it, the final vote on passage will surely be approved because that motion only requires 50 votes. It would take only five of today’s aye votes to change to nays for the bill to die on the second procedural vote. The previous immigration bill passed the first procedural vote with an even stronger majority (that vote was 69-23), only to die after failing to pass the second procedural vote after two attempts. I suggested last week that Reid’s use of the “clay pigeon” procedure could be an indicator that, in the end, the bill will be approved. We’ll know for sure by Friday.

Check back here for updates on the amendment process, or check out the blog and news coverage as it rolls in on the bill page for a convenient overview of what’s happening and what people are saying. Blogs played a major role in advancing the public debate over the previous immigration bill. Now that the issue has officially returned, the buzz in the blogosphere will likely pick up again and it could have a big effect on whether or not the bill is passed.

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