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Immigration's Clay Pigeon Dissolves

June 27, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Supporters of the Senate immigration bill today successfully killed five of twenty-seven pending amendments before their spree was abruptly cut short by the sixth.

The bill’s supporters, a small, bipartisan group of senators who are being reluctantly assisted by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, NV), hoped to dispose of the 27 amendments quickly using a rare parliamentary procedure known as a “clay pigeon.” This procedure sets up a limited number of amendments to be considered and, ideally, shot down in a fast and ordered way. But, according to this procedure, once the Senate votes against shooting down (aka tabling) an amendment, they can’t consider any others without the consent off all 100 senators, which is definitely not going to happen. They will have to hold a cloture vote on the bill to get beyond the unanimous consent requirement.

The bill’s supporters were hoping to put off a cloture vote until the amendment killing spree reached a Republican-backed amendment that would require all heads of households to return to their home country before applying for a probationary Z-visa. This amendment would gain some crucial GOP support for the bill and it is likely to be approved. But, without actually having the Senate on record in favor of not tabling the amendment, some Republicans may not feel comfortable voting for cloture. Sixty votes are needed for the cloture vote to pass. On Tuesday, a similar vote passed with 64 “ayes,” so they can only afford to lose the support of four senators if the bill is to stay alive.

The amendment that survived the clay pigeon voting extravaganza was offered by two senators who oppose the bill in the first place. Montana Democrats Jon Tester and Max Baucus (pictured above), the amendment’s sponsors, voted against the first cloture vote on a motion to simply bring the bill to a debate on the Senate floor. Their amendment seeks to strike a provision from the bill that requires employers to verify the identification of their employees through a card meeting the specifications of the Real ID Act of 2005. In a press release, Tester and Baucus brag about halting the bill:

>“We scored a major victory today in our efforts to protect privacy and defeat a bad immigration bill at the same time,” said Baucus, Montana’s senior U.S. Senator. “If Jon and I just brought down the entire bill, that’s good for Montana and the country.”
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>REAL ID requires states to standardize their driver’s licenses and build costly new databases that the federal government can access, essentially creating a national ID system.Earlier this year, the Montana Legislature unanimously passed legislation refusing to implement the program because it invades privacy and can expose private information to identity thieves, and because of its enormous cost.
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>Tester, a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee and a staunch supporter of privacy rights, said REAL ID isn’t needed to toughen national security.
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>“If by fighting to keep government out of people’s private lives, Max Baucus and I stopped the senate from passing this flawed immigration bill, then this was a real victory for Montana and the American people,” Tester said.

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