The Senate Judiciary Committee voted the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744) out of committee on May 22 by a vote of 13-5. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) expects to open Senate floor debate the week of Monday, June 10, and plans to hold a vote three weeks later before the July 4 congressional recess. Senators are expected to offer a number of amendments, and the bipartisan Gang of Eight is working to address concerns and block amendments that either party would consider a “poison pill.” The upper chamber continues to disagree over border security measures, the path to legalization, and high-skilled visa reform versus protections for U.S. workers. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) – a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee – continues to express concerns that certain taxation provisions fall under Finance Committee jurisdiction, and he may not support final passage until that issue is addressed.
House of Representatives
The Gang of Eight members of the House of Representatives continue to report that they have reached a deal “in principle” for a bipartisan bill, but doubts remain because a bill has not yet been introduced. They have not yet resolved whether undocumented immigrants seeking legalization will be required to purchase health insurance on the open market while they await permanent status. Current law does not allow them to purchase it under the benefits or exchanges of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but it does not require them to purchase insurance privately. Republicans are seeking to add that requirement to the immigration bill to ensure that immigrants prove they will not become a public charge once legalized. Energy & Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) is opposing this effort to require the undocumented to buy insurance at what Democrats fear will be unaffordable market rates. Democrats argue this provision would violate deals they made to pass the ACA and would create an impossible hurdle to legalization for many undocumented immigrants.
However, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) has followed through on his plans to take up piecemeal bills that address discrete aspects of the immigration system. His committee already held hearings on the Agricultural Guestworker Act (H.R. 1773) to reform the temporary agricultural worker program and the Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 1772) to implement the E-Verify system and discourage hiring of undocumented immigrants. The committee will likely 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). Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has indicated that all immigration bills will proceed through the Judiciary Committee, and he has also warned that the House will not simply take up a bill passed in the Senate.