Thursday, April 06, 2006
Here's the play by play on what has just happened:
Senator Frist is on the Senate floor now announcing they will adjourn for the evening. Frist is complaining that the Democrats have acted as obstructionists by keeping 396 amendments from coming up for a vote. He is saying that the Democrats "reversed course" after agreeing to the compromise language. Frist says he would like to get at least 20 amendments packaged for a vote as well as a vote on the underlying bill, but that this was turned down by the Democrats.
Frist says that an up or down vote on the compromise bill is unlikely to be approved in the morning. He believes little progress will be made tomorrow based on where things stand at this point. Frist is saying that he'll bring up a vote on his bill if the Democrats won't come to an agreement.
Now Minority Leader Reid (D-NV) is up. He is saying that 20 amendments is a backdoor way to filibuster the compromise bill. He also wanted an agreement on who the conferees would be (Reid wants all the Judiciary Committee members to represent the Senate).
Frist is saying he will not support a cloture motion and urge Republicans to vote against a cloture motion unless agreement is made ahead of time on amendment voting.
Now Frist and Reid are discussing a possible compromise to allow some amendments to be considered tomorrow with 30 minutes of debate for each amendment. Apparently, we're back to negotiating.
Everything on the news is providing only a vague analysis of what the changes since yesterday actually are. So after several hours of analyzing the Hegel-Martinez compromise language, I have prepared a seven page summary of the changes. The only thing I have not done is summarize the Alexander naturalization language which allows the naturalization residency period in some cases to be reduced from five years to four.
If you want to read the whole 525 page bill including the compromise language, click here. Note that language for any changes made today is not included. The main item I know about that may change is a potential drop in the number of allocated H-2C visas.
Despite basic agreement on the terms of compromises in the Senate bill, no agreement has been reached on consideration of amendments, the same problem that was threatening the bill yesterday. The Senate is still in session this evening and it is still not clear when or how the compromise bill will be considered (i.e. with or without additional amendments).
Attorney Sergio Karas in our Toronto office was quoted in a front-page article in the National Post on April 6, 2006. Click here to read it.
Attorney Sergio Karas in our Toronto office delivered an address at a Special Citizenship Ceremony held at the Ontario Bar Association on occasion of Law Day. Click here to read more about the ceremony.
We have uploaded the text of the latest version of the Senate bill on our web site. The bill has expanded from 478 to 525 pages. We are now analyzing the bill to see what has changed and we hope to have a summary available shortly. Note also that there are still changes being negotiated and some changes made today will not be in this version which was last updated last night.
Key Senators from both the Republican and Democratic Parties held a press conference today hailing a compromise that will allow a bill to pass that House as early as this evening. Amendments can be added only today and then a final vote including the Hegel-Martinez language will be voted after a cloture motion to stop debate likely passes.
A transcript of the Senate press conference can be found at the Washington Post web site.
The compromise will make the following changes:
A - Those in the US five years or more would be eligible for the Kennedy-McCain program in the current version of the Specter bill. Seven to eight million people are thought to be in this group.
B- Those in the US less than five years but more than two would be able to participate if they go to one of twenty ports of entry at a border, exit the US briefly, and then would be readmitted to the US (the so-called "touch back" approach). Approximately three million immigrants fall into this group. Only the head of the household will need to leave the country. Only 425,000 green cards will be available each year to nationals in this category so the green card process will be lengthened by approximately two to four years beyond those in the first category.
C - Those in the US less than two years would have to leave the country and pursue residency from outside the US (though the current bill version only allows participation by people in who entered after January 4, 2004, so this may not really be much of a change). About one to two million people are thought to be in this category.
There may be other changes, but no language is yet available. We will report on the language as it becomes available.
For a summary of the rest of the bill (except for the changes noted above), see our article on the subject.
Richard Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Judiciary Committee and a key proponent of the Kennedy-McCain language in the Senate immigration bill, told Chicago Sun-Times columnist Lynn Sweet this morning
``I think that we are close, very close to a bipartisan agreement,’’ said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), spending the morning in closed door negotiations first in a meeting just with Democrats and then another with Republicans.
More details are emerging as well on the Hegel-Martinez language. Only heads of families in the two to five year group would need to process at a border port of entry. Also, the path to citizenship would be lengthened by two to three years.
Apparently, the 400,000 H-2C visas in the bill also would be reduced. No word yet on the new number.
David Brooks, the conservative NY Times columnist used extraordinarily blunt language this morning (subscription required) to criticize House Republicans who are opposing an immigration deal which would grant legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants in the country.
Brooks, who has been covering the immigration bill in the Senate, noted that the Hegel-Martinez language would likely bring along 15 or so Republicans who would not otherwise support the Specter bill. That would be enough to push through an immigration bill with more than 70 votes, giving the measure much needed momentum as it moves to the House.
I had a horrifying experience in the House of Representatives last week. The House Immigration Caucus held a press conference so members could compete to see who was the biggest blithering idiot in the group.
"Anybody who votes for an amnesty bill deserves to be branded with a scarlet letter, 'A for Amnesty!' " one aspiring idiot thundered. There's "a foul odor that's coming out of the U.S. Senate!" bellowed Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California, who then went on to win the prize by suggesting that instead of using illegal aliens to harvest crops, we force felons to do it. "I say, Let the prisoners pick the fruits!"
Here was a seemingly mentally competent adult recommending that we force a largely minority population to go out in the fields and pick lettuce and cotton. You wanted to hit him over the head and scream: Is this ringing any bells, Representative Rohrabacher? Are we repealing the Emancipation Proclamation, too?
Senator Reid decided to press forward with a cloture vote afterall. And, as predicted, it failed (39 to 60) to pass. However, because a compromise was reached, but earlier predictions that a failure to win on the vote would kill the immigration deal have not proven accurate. That's because compromise language appears to be close to approval by all of the major players. Senator Reid congratulated Senators Hegel and Martinez on their efforts and predicted that a deal would be reached (with the caveat that the language still needed to be tweaked).
The New York Times is reporting that the Senate could vote as early as tonight on the compromise immigration bill. The paper is reporting that Senator Frist made the statement in an interview on CNN this morning.
Senator Frist just announced on the Senate floor that he did not believe a cloture vote as called by Senator Reid would actually happen. Presumably this is because a compromise has been reached that will allow the Hegel-Martinez strategy described here last night to get a vote instead. It is not clear what is the status of amendments that have yet to be introduced and debated as well as the status of those amendments already queued up for a vote (particularly the controversial Kyl poison pill amendment).
The New York Times is reporting this morning that a number of pro-immigration organizations as well as business groups are throwing their support behind the new language. One group named in the article as now being supportive of the new language and optimistic about the outcome is the National Immigration Forum.