Vote on amnesty this year in doubt
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Vote on amnesty this year in doubt

September 9, 2013, 12:54 pm
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Syria, other issues push immigration to the sidelines
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Refusing to take up an immigration bill before Congress' annual August recess, House Leadership left the American people wondering when it would bring legislation to the floor for a vote. However, recent comments from GOP leadership aides indicate Republicans are now considering bringing immigration-related legislation to the House floor this fall. Indeed, an aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) told reporters last week that GOP leaders "hope to consider [immigration] legislation" in October.

 The aide's remarks appear to confirm statements made by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), a leading amnesty proponent, who told constituents at a town hall in late-July that House leaders planned to take up immigration in October. This surprised some, as House Leadership had been evasive in setting a timetable.  In fact, when specifically questioned about Ryan's timeline a week later on Fox News Sunday, Leader Cantor dodged the question, telling host Chris Wallace, "We will have a vote on a series of bills at some point..."

However, despite the Majority Leader's Office's sudden willingness to confirm an October vote, the growing number of issues that the House must also address this fall is already threatening the recently announced timeline. These priority legislative items include the need to pass a budget for the new fiscal year  the pending debt ceiling debate, and possible resolutions on whether to take military action in Syria.

Underscoring the possibility that these items may push immigration to the sidelines, Speaker Boehner told reporters last week that the President would be in for a "whale of a fight" over the debt limit. "If we have to deal with the debt limit earlier, it doesn't change the overall dynamics of the debate, but — just in terms of timing — it might make it harder to find time for immigration bills in October," confirmed one House Republican leadership aide. Indeed, the House is in session only 14-days that month, and less than 40 House working days remain before the year ends.  (Id.)

Because 2014 is an election year, many see the end of the 2013 calendar year as the unofficial deadline for Congress to pass an amnesty.  As the calendar moves closer to Election Day, political observers predict that legislative leaders will not have the appetite for such a divisive debate.

Even so, GOP Leaders in the House still suggest they intend to vote on at least one immigration bill in an effort to conference with the Senate amnesty legislation. For example, House GOP Policy Chair James Lankford (R-OK) told reporters he was convinced that his fellow Republicans were prepared to vote down any piece of legislation emerging from conference committee with which they did not agree, insinuating that a House-Senate conference committee was a done deal. When the Senate and House pass different bills, they must resolve the differences in the legislation through a "conference committee." After the conference committee reaches agreement on identical bill language, the newly-agreed upon legislation goes back to each chamber to vote for final passage.

Whenever House leaders decide to bring up immigration, they will lead with "border security" and enforcement-style legislation. However, the "border security" bill currently making its way through the House, the Border Security Results Act (H.R. 1417) authored by Homeland Security Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-TX) is nothing more than a repeat of the Senate amnesty bill's weak border provisions. H.R. 1417 does not require that DHS actually obtain situational awareness or operational control of any part of the border; it merely requires DHS to submit a plan for doing so. 


Author: Reynold Mason
Reynold N. Mason teaches law courses at Zenover Educational Institute In Atlanta, Georgia. He has been a judge on New York City Civil Court and, a Justice on New York State Supreme Court. Mason has been an adjunct professor of law at Medgar Evers College and Monroe College in New York. He has authored several legal opinions published in New York Miscellaneous Reports and New York Official Reports as well as the New York Law Journal. He lives in Atlanta.
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