Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed cloture on the motion to proceed to debate on the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744) last Thursday, and the Senate will vote on the motion on Tuesday, June 11. Majority Leader Reid plans to allow an open amendment process and up to three weeks of debate, with a possible vote the week of June 24. Gang of Eight members Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have both mentioned that the bill still has room for improvement and that constructive amendments will be welcomed. A manager’s amendment with technical corrections is also expected to be offered.
While Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated he will not block debate, it is still unclear whether the bipartisan Gang of Eight has garnered a filibuster-proof 60 votes. The Gang of Eight is actively negotiating amendments with senators to gain their votes. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) only voted the bill out of committee on the condition that his four amendments addressing potential Senate Finance Committee jurisdiction over taxation provisions be addressed on the floor. In addition, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) drafted a strict border security amendment. This has caused controversy among the Gang of Eight because Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has stated that he cannot vote for the bill in its current form until border security is strengthened, but Sen. Cornyn’s amendment may reduce support from Democrats who see the amendment as overly restrictive.
A wildcard is the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report, which scores the cost of the bill and is required before bringing the bill to the floor. Some are concerned the CBO score will not be ready in time, in which case Democrats may seek an agreement with Republicans to bring the bill up before the CBO score is complete.
House of Representatives
The bipartisan Gang of Eight has now become a Gang of Seven. The group again reported that they have reached a deal “in principle” on all key aspects of a comprehensive bill and that they are having the final drafting done. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) dropped out of the Gang due to disagreement over whether undocumented immigrants would be eligible for subsidized health care, or whether they could be allowed to purchase it under the Affordable Care Act benefits or exchanges. Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) is leading Democratic opposition to requiring the undocumented to purchase private insurance at unaffordable market rates. In response, Rep. Labrador has pledged to draft his own bill. His departure from the Gang could reduce Republican support for the final bipartisan product, especially among newer and more conservative members.
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has indicated that all immigration bills will proceed through the Judiciary Committee, and has also warned that the House will not simply take up a bill passed in the Senate. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) continues to address individual aspects of the immigration system via piecemeal bills. This week the Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the interior enforcement language introduced by Rep. Gowdy, and they may soon hold a hearing on the Supporting Knowledge-based Immigrants & Lifting Levels of STEM Visas Act (SKILLS Act, H.R. 2131), which Chairman Goodlatte co-sponsored with committee member Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA).
This Week’s Hearings:
- Thursday, June 13: The House Judiciary Committee will hold a full committee hearing on the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act (SAFE Act) (HR 2278).