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February 14, 2016

Harry Reid Squashes First Poison Pill on Immigration

The Democrats made a forceful move this morning to defeat the first Republican effort to cripple the immigration overhaul. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., opened the third day of proceedings by moving to table, and thereby kill, the opening GOP bid for bolstering the bill’s border security provisions.

The amendment was designed to impose such a high threshold for border security that the “gang of eight” coalition behind the underlying bill would fracture. But Reid’s maneuver to kill it without so much as a fare thee well also threatens to upend the rickety bipartisan agreement to stay on course for a textbook friendly debate.

Reid’s move infuriated opponents of the bill, who said their right to keep talking while they worked to build a coalition for their proposal had been stripped away without fair warning.

“This so-called open and fair process is a farce,” the top Judiciary Committee Republican, Charles E. Grassley, called out just before the roll call. “This is a very provocative act.”

Grassley wrote the amendment at issue, which would require the Department of Homeland Security to certify that the Mexican border had been fully secured for six full months before the bill’s new system could begin to legalize people now in the country illegally. Critics said that requirement would be an additional and impractical burden on the already-arduous path toward citizenship at the heart of the measure.

Reid’s move needed only 50 votes to succeed; he got 57.

As reported on Roll Call’s #WGDB blog, the majority leader’s parliamentary tactic was a quick rejoinder to the bill’s opponents. They had complained bitterly on Wednesday that their efforts to hobble the legislation were being subjected to an unfairly high 60-vote threshold for success. But they shouldn’t have been surprised, since such supermajorities have become the increasing norm in the Senate in recent years as the only way to avoid time-consuming filibusters by whichever caucus is on the losing side of a proposal.

For Reid, the power to call for tabling motions gives him additional leverage to move the debate along at a relatively brisk pace — and with solid odds of keeping the bill to his liking. He can make ideas he views as poison pills go away with 51 votes, while the other side will need 60 votes to add language viewed as killer amendments by the Obama administration, the gang of eight and the coalition of business and labor groups pushing the measure.

As a scheduling matter, applying such muscle is probably the only way the final roll call on passage can be called by two weeks from tomorrow, the day senators are supposed to be dispatched for their July Fourth recess.

To that end, Reid announced after this morning’s vote that senators should plan to stay in town the weekend of June 22 and 23 for votes on the bill. He then declared that work on the immigration measure was over for this week.


  • georgealbert

    So Reid kills the amendment meant to help get support in the House, and this guy states that Reid is supporting the bill? Welcome to 1984

  • Armorer

    Harry Reid just won an empty victory. His downright scorn of serious border control will mean this awful bill is certain to be defeated in the House. This is the definition of a Pyrrhic victory. As King Pyrrhus of Epirus said, “Another such victory and we are undone.” This “win” may not require a second defeat to have sealed the fate of the bill.

    • William Noack

      Yes, you are probably correct on that.

    • mississippian

      Guessing the Reid really doesn’t want the bill to pass the House. If he did he would allow the tougher border security provisions. It seems as though Reid wants the bill to fail so that he can pin the failure on Republicans in 2014.

  • Dirk Diggler

    Poison pill is designed to weigh the thing down with so much junk and unrealistic amendments that it could not get pass the Senate, much less the House or a conference, or much less get signed by the President. Cruz wants to delay, delay, delay and destroy any immigration bill and the far right will go along. Time for moderates to stand up for compromise and actually getting something done.

    Reid supports the bill as drafted by a group of 8 Senators who have been working hard on this legislation.

    • mississippian

      More likely to pass the House WITH the tough border security provisions that Harry Reid killed,

  • William Noack

    Expecting border security should NOT be a problem. We saw what happened with amnesty & no border security in the 1980s, right? The politicians won’t do it unless it is “written in stone”, & most Americans want border security. Fact is, most also do NOT want amnesty. US. public servants ought to serve U.S. citizens, not foreigners, and OUR people’s jobs should come before illegal aliens’ interests.

    • Armorer

      I agree completely with your take on the American people. But whether we’re speaking of Obama or the “Gang of Eight,” the most outrageous thing is they believe border security is a bargaining chip, not their duty under the Constitution to guarantee. All these folk are post-American; what they need to learn again — one would have thought 2007 would have taught them — is the American people believe in upholding their sovereignty.

      • William Noack

        Armorer, you are quite right. Both sides leaderships often does use it as a bargaining chip when it should be regarding as a duty to secure our borders – especially with the threat of terrorism. What happens when a chemical warhead gets smuggled in & detonated in a big metro? Then it will be the blame game, when all along they should have been protecting the American people & our national sovereignty! It should be a non-issue just as much as rape & murder: nobody debates whether we should enforce laws against rape & murder, do they?
        Well, if they keep refusing to enforce their oaths & U.S. Law, someday they should be charged with manslaughter or worse when terrorists finally use our porous borders to do harm; and, that is only the beginning, as we should not cheapen our citizenship by whomever can force themselves upon America – national rape. Besides, it would be better to help both citizens & illegal aliens by helping bring U.S. mfg back to our proximity & away from communist China. It would create jobs here and in Mexico & central America, thus decreasing the numbers of foreigners leaving homes & families, risking their lives, and stealing U.S. jobs.

    • Beeker

      One of the problem with border security is that we have already sunk millions of dollars to prop it up and all that has done is people move around it or climb through it. It is equivalent of having a fence around the pool to keep the kids out and they come in without you knowing about it. The biggest problem is the mentality of to much government spending as a result the Border Patrol has to cut its staffing hours just to meet the spending sequester limit.

  • Carleton

    well thx mr. hawking for not insulting my intelligence by even attempting to hide your bias re: “Harry Reid Squashes “””First Poison Pill”””” on Immigration”

    imagine that, wanting to secure the border first? Those nutjobs…*rolleyes*

    thats a poison pill?…can you just report the news dude…huh?

  • mississippian

    Interesting that the article’s author sees Republican efforts to bolster the bill’s border security provisions as a “poison pill”.

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