Immigration reform bill clears Senate, but faces roadblock in House (+video)
The Senate approved the bill by a 68-to-32 vote Thursday. But House leaders, including those supportive of the immigration reform effort, have said the Senate legislation won't get a hearing in their chamber.
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The bill likewise achieves two goals of the typically conservative-leaning corporate community: vastly expanding efforts to attract and retain high-skilled workers and opening up an entirely new class of visas for low-skilled foreign workers, including those in agricultural industries, to come to the US on a temporary basis.Skip to next paragraph
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But what rankles some conservatives is the central concession won by Democrats: The undocumented would be allowed to legalize, if provisionally, before all the bill’s many security measures are in place.
“I can tell you it’s going to make history because it’s going to make the same mistakes that we made in 1986 when we thought we were securing the border and we obviously didn’t,” says Sen. Charles Grassley (R) of Iowa, speaking of the 1986 immigration reform bill that legalized 3 million illegal immigrants but failed to secure the nation’s borders.
“You find out [if] you reward illegality, and you get more of it by four times,” says Senator Grassley, who voted for the 1986 bill signed by President Reagan. “I don’t want to make that mistake again.”
There’s hope among the GOP that the House will achieve conservative goals that couldn’t get enough support in the Senate.
“Remember, this is the beginning of the process, not the end,” Senator Hoeven says. “In other words, the House has to do something.”
But “something” is almost certainly not inclusive of the Senate’s legislation. House leaders – including those supportive of the immigration reform effort like House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio, Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin, and Rep. Raúl Labrador (R) of Idaho – have said the Senate bill won’t get a hearing in the House.
What exactly the House will do is still an open question. House Judiciary chairman Robert Goodlatte (R) of Virginia is moving a passel of bills that address parts of the immigration system, including interior enforcement of immigration laws and nationwide implementation of E-Verify. A bipartisan group of House members has cooked up a single, comprehensive bill on which a final accord has proved elusive for weeks.
But those options and others won’t be formed into a legislative plan no earlier than a GOP conference meeting devoted to immigration on July 10.
And with many conservative House Republicans balking at a Democratic red line of potential citizenship for the undocumented under any circumstances, it's anyone's guess whether lawmakers can reconcile the Senate bill with whatever legislation the House approves.
The perhaps grim fate of the Senate bill in an unrepentantly conservative House was clear on Thursday, even as senators were slapping one another on the back and paying tribute to Ted Kennedy, the late Massachusetts senator whose immigration reform efforts in 2006 and 2007 were indefatigable if, eventually, futile.
As the Gang of Eight assembled to face reporters after the vote, only six senators approached the podium.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R) of Arizona, who ascended to the Senate from the ranks of the House’s most fiscally conservative hawks earlier this year, was absent. So was Sen. Marco Rubio (R) of Florida, the man with presidential aspirations in 2016 who, like many new members of the House, was swept to office on the tea party wave of 2010.
The absence of the two Gang of Eight senators with the most cachet among House Republicans spoke volumes: For now, keeping immigration reform rolling may very well mean steering clear of the bill that the Senate fought so hard to pass.
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