Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 14, 2016

Reid Moves to Wrap Up Immigration Debate

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 2:15 p.m. | Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., moved to bring the Senate’s immigration debate to close Friday, after incorporating a bipartisan border security deal into the underlying bill.

With that deal in hand, Reid now appears to have plenty of votes from Republicans to overcome a filibuster led by GOP conservatives such as Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Ted Cruz of Texas. The test of that assumption will come June 24 at 5:30 p.m.

Reid set up the test vote after the much-anticipated border security amendment was filed on Friday afternoon. It was bundled into an omnibus amendment designed to prevent any procedural pitfalls. Placing the agreement in the underlying bill also served as a way for supporters of an immigration measure to prove their commitment to the compromise worked out by GOP Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota.

Reid has previously said he wants to vote on final passage before the Senate leaves for the Fourth of July recess at the end of next week, and his procedural moves are designed to accomplish that.

Once the amendment arrived, Reid filed a motion to limit debate on the overall amendment and get the measure lined up for next week’s vote. He also used a procedural tool at his disposal, known as filling the amendment tree, to prevent further amendments without an agreement.

“I am reminded today that legislating is about making tough choices. It is not about standing on the sidelines and complaining that you cannot get a perfect solution enacted,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt. “One of the reasons I decided to continue chairing the Senate Judiciary Committee is because of this once-in-a-generation chance for us to truly reform our broken immigration system. It is a tragic problem that calls out for a comprehensive solution. There are too many families kept apart because of our broken immigration system, and there are too many people living in the shadows who should be allowed to earn their citizenship for us to fail them now. We owe it to them … to get legislation passed. So while I do not agree with the Republicans’ border demands, I will support this modification of my amendment because it is one of many tough choices necessary to continue making progress toward passage of this crucial bill.”

The Senate floor was in a holding pattern, with debate only until mid-afternoon as staffers worked to iron out exactly what would be in a catch-all immigration amendment including Hoeven and Corker’s important border security measure, a bunch of noncontroversial amendments and compromise language on other issues.

Reid said earlier that the process could move along fairly expeditiously, but cautioned Friday morning that “very quickly in Senate time is not like everybody else’s time.”

Corker and Hoeven appeared on Fox News Friday morning to promote their proposal to bring a “surge” to border security, a day after unveiling a deal with Senate Democrats to make a massive investment in security and tracking.

“I think this solves the problem and moves aside the whole issue of securing the border,” Corker said. “It’ll be introduced in the next short period of time. There’s one little issue that’s being worked on.”

Corker said the issue was unrelated to the border security.

“Our focus in this bill is to strengthen the border, but there are other issues going on as well,” Hoeven said. “Illegal immigrants in RPI status, this provisional status, don’t get benefits, and we’ve taken a tough line on that and we’re getting push back from the other side, and we’re saying no.” (RPI in the context of the immigration bill drafted by the bipartisan “gang of eight” now on the floor stands for “registered provisional immigrant.”)

Hoeven said the package “includes all the latest technologies, 20,000 more border agents, 700 miles of fence, an e-verify system, electronic entry-exit at all airports and seaports. That’s what we’re holding tough on, and they keep pushing back. … That’s why it’s taking some time.”

“Immigrants cannot get a green card until all 20,000 border agents are in place. They cannot get a green card until all $3.2 billion of the technology that the border patrol has asked for is in place,” Corker said. “Anyone who criticizes this bill because of border security, in my opinion, is just looking for a reason to criticize the bill.”

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