The Senate initiated its debate on S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act last week. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) invoked cloture on a motion to proceed and began accepting amendments to the bill on Tuesday, June 11.
Last Wednesday, June 12 the process got bogged down with discussions over whether a 50 or 60 vote majority would be required to pass the first round of bills, with Democrats wanting a 60 vote supermajority and Republicans wanting a 50 vote majority to pass amendments. No agreement was reached and on last Thursday, June 13, the Senate voted to table Grassley Amendment S.A. 1195, a proposal Democrats considered a poison pill on border security that would establish triggers resulting in long delays for the legalization portion of the bill. The motion to table the amendment passed 57-43, essentially killing the amendment. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has promised to unveil another amendment to tighten border security this week.
With the vote requirement still unresolved for the other pending amendments, Senate leadership announced that no votes would be held until this week, and the Senate recessed. Over 100 amendments have been filed so far, and Majority Leader Reid issued a warning of long nights this week, including the possibility of remaining in session over the weekend of June 22 and 23, to ensure completion of the amendment process and passage of the bill before the July 4 recess.
House of Representatives
The House Gang of Seven continues to work on drafting its bipartisan immigration reform bill. In the months that the Gang has been writing and negotiating this bill, the terrain has constantly shifted around the group, as the Senate Gang of Eight has produced a bipartisan bill that is now on the Senate floor and some key House Republicans have started producing their own bills. The Gang of Seven is likely considering questions of when and how to reposition itself, introduce its bill, and what kind of welcome the measure will receive in the House following these events and the loss of Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) from the group.
Meanwhile, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) has begun to move on his promised piecemeal approach to immigration reform. He has announced a markup this Tuesday, June 18, of H.R. 2278, the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act (The SAFE Act) introduced by Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC). We expect that the Chairman may add two other bills to the agenda for that day, or add another markup later in the week, to address his own bill, H.R. 1773, the Agricultural Guestworker Act, and H.R. 1772, the Legal Workforce Act, introduced by former Judiciary Committee Chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). Both bills were the subjects of committee hearings in May and a hearing was held on the SAFE Act last Thursday, June 13.
We expect that the committee may hold a hearing on the Supporting Knowledge-based Immigrants & Lifting Levels of STEM Visas Act (SKILLS Act, H.R. 2131), co-sponsored by Chairman Goodlatte and committee member Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the week of June 24. A markup may follow in the same week. Together these bills address several of the key areas of Republican interest for immigration reform: interior enforcement, agricultural workers, E-Verify workplace verification, and high-skilled visas.
The critical issue of border security may be addressed in a new bill or may be addressed through Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul’s (R-TX) bipartisan bill H.R. 1417, the Border Security Results Act of 2013, which was reported out of committee in May. Under this approach, it is unlikely that the committee’s Republicans will move a legalization bill to address the undocumented residents. This will be a key source of contention, if not a possible deal-breaker, for House Democrats and the Senate if there is no path to citizenship in the House package.
This Week’s Hearings:
- Tuesday, June 18: The House Judiciary Committee will mark up the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act (The SAFE Act) at 10:00 am.