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Posts in "Immigration"
June 15, 2014
Appropriations is supposed to be the exception to the rule that Congress will be minimally productive this year, and the recent flurry of action on the annual money bills has made it appear that way.
Just beneath the surface, though, lies a lengthening list of disagreements over spending priorities and policy shifts. They are not only between Republicans and Democrats on the Hill, but also between Congress and the Obama administration.
Half a dozen major confrontations have surfaced just in the past week — even while progress has appeared steady.
Nine of the dozen appropriations bills have at least started down the legislative assembly line. The House is on course to pass its fifth measure this week, and Eric Cantor says moving as many as possible is his main goal before relinquishing the majority leader post at the end of July. The Senate has set the next two weeks aside for debating a package containing three of the politically easier domestic bills.
Yet no one in the know is holding out hope for answering all the myriad where-the-money-goes questions by Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year and also when lawmakers plan to pack up for a month of full-time campaigning. That means a continuing resolution will surely have to keep most (if not all) of the government operating at least to the middle of November, when the lame-duck session begins and Republicans know whether they’ll have more power next year.
The end result, for now, is a real sense of disconnect. One the one hand, there’s a superficial steadiness to the appropriations process, a break from many years of chaos from the start. On the other hand, there are plenty of signs that a long period of the customary messiness lies ahead.
Here are five disputes that have recently blossomed, each of which has the potential to complicate this year’s budget debate until its closing days. Full story
January 15, 2014
In theory, some people are refocusing attention on Congress this month after a period of total disconnectedness that began after the last election. For them, the most astonishing thing is surely that an immigration overhaul remains on the to-do list.
The start of the new legislative year has been preoccupied with talk about unemployment benefits, Iran sanctions, restrictions on government surveillance and the completed-at-last annual budget. But behind the white noise lies this reality: Thanks to all the sky-high expectations after the 2012 results created an obvious political sweet spot, the 113th Congress is going to be remembered more than anything else as the time when immigration policy did — or did not — get revamped for the first time in a generation.
If that somehow happens after a year of fits and starts, it will likely stand not only as the historic domestic policy achievement of President Barack Obama’s second term, but also as a sign the Republican Party is returning to realpolitik.
And if the 2014 legislative effort comes up empty, it will reaffirm not only the president’s significantly shrunken legislative sway, but also the GOP’s interest in cultivating its most conservative fringes at the expense of all else.
Framed in those stark terms, it should be tough to predict that impasse is the likely outcome. That’s why advocates of a big bill, not only in the Hispanic community but also in the business world, are stoking every inkling of momentum. Full story
September 29, 2013
First it was going to be July, right after the Senate did its part. Next it was going to be September, once lawmakers had a chance to gauge constituent opinion. And then it was supposed to be this coming month of October, filling a window between two fiscal fights.
For those who have been predicting when the House would start debating immigration legislation, wrong and wrong are about to be met by wrong again. The current spending-and-borrowing morass now seems certain to consume the south side of the Capitol all October, and probably November and December as well. Full story
July 8, 2013
Wednesday’s all-House-Republicans-on-deck meeting on immigration has lost its potential to generate the summer’s biggest congressional news.
Caucus leadership has already concluded there’s no chance a majority of the majority is back from the July Fourth recess ready to tackle the issue in anything close to a comprehensive or speedy manner.
That news was buried in the third sentence of the 15th dense paragraph of a memo that Majority Leader Eric Cantor sent out to a nearly empty Capitol on July 5. Although creating a citizenship pathway for the 11 million people who are in the United States illegally would be the most consequential change in domestic policy of the decade, and spurning the idea would be political hemlock for the GOP, the idea barely merited a passing afterthought in his discussion of the House’s July legislative agenda.
Instead, the bulk of the next four weeks will be devoted to passing a trio of “drill, baby, drill” deregulatory Republican energy measures that have no chance of even a serious hearing in the Democratic Senate. That will be joined by five spending bills that are more likely to complicate than to smooth this fall’s inevitable budget crisis.
There may also be time to take another run at passing the farm bill — probably, although Cantor didn’t say so, by splitting its food stamp and agricultural provisions into separate measures.
And after all of that symbolic legislating? “The House may begin consideration of the border security measures that have been passed by the Homeland Security and Judiciary committees and begin reviewing other immigration proposals,” the majority leader offered. Full story
June 27, 2013
So, the Senate immigration bill didn’t hit the 70-vote threshold that was going to magically melt all House Republican resistance to opening the narrow new path to citizenship even before the border is totally locked-down tight. The solemn roll call came up two senators short.
For essentially the entire three weeks that immigration overhaul was on the Senate floor, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, made clear he couldn’t care less how big the bipartisan coalition grew on the other side of the Capitol. He wasn’t falling into the expectations trap set by some members of the Senate’s bipartisan “gang of eight.”
In fact, he wasn’t even going to buy the notion he had to announce right away how the House would respond to Senate passage of one of the most consequential domestic policy measures in the last quarter-century. On the contrary, he has always insisted, he hasn’t even really started trying to figure that out.
That’s what the coming July Fourth recess is for. Full story
The Senate is on course to finish its immigration bill this afternoon, with the penultimate pair of procedural test votes to be taken before lunch and the roll call on passage set to start at 4 p.m.
When that final vote begins, Majority Leader Harry Reid announced this morning, he expects all senators to be in the chamber and ready to vote from their desks.
Arranging that unusual and somber ceremony serves a couple of strategic purposes for proponents of the legislation. Full story
June 23, 2013
A four-day weekend for the House is affording GOP leaders extra time to go over the long list of lessons they were retaught by the farm bill’s catatonic collapse.
Perhaps the most obvious and the most important among them: If you’ve got the votes, then vote. If you don’t, bide your time. But be sure you can count well enough to know the difference.
Forgetting this one lesson next time, on the immigration bill, will almost surely prove fatal to the most sweeping domestic policy overhaul of this decade. It will very likely lead to the dismissal of all three men at the helm of the majority caucus. And it could well poison the Republican Party for years in the eyes of the nation’s fastest-expanding demographic group.
For GOP leadership, the importance of separating their external challenges from their own shortcomings — and focusing on what’s within their power to fix — cannot be overstated before an immigration debate is scheduled. Full story
June 20, 2013
A breakthrough moment for the Senate immigration bill is at hand, and it can be reduced to this formula: Two plus eight looks to equal at least 70.
The two are Republicans John Hoeven and Bob Corker, who are unveiling a plan to rewrite the border security provisions in the “gang of eight” measure in a way that will win over a solid bloc of new GOP votes without alienating any of the Democrats.
If everyone on the Democratic side embraces the deal, and if they’re joined by a third of the Republicans, the majority would crest at 70 on passage of the legislation, which sponsors are pushing for by the end of next week. Full story