The Hill gives us 6 floor amendments to the immigration reform bill that bear watching over the next few weeks.
Some of them — including a border security amendment by Senator Cornyn and another by Senator Rand Paul — will probably determine whether the bill passes the Senate. Another amendment offered by Senator Patrick Leahy that would allow partners of same sex couples living overseas to apply for a green card the same way that heterosexual married couples do, would mean that Senator Marco Rubio would probably withdraw his support of the bill if the amendment is passed.
But there are two interesting amendments that will show just how serious Democrats are about immigration reform:
Rubio has offered an amendment that would require immigrants with provisional legal status, who are 16 or older to read, write and speak English. This would require that immigrants speak English before they’d be eligible to apply for a green card rather than taking the English proficiency test right before gaining citizenship.
Some Republicans argued that the Gang of Eight bill was offering undocumented immigrants amnesty because it wasn’t hard enough to start the pathway to citizenship. Rubio’s amendment bumps up the English-language requirement by a few years in the process.
Earlier this week, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) warned the Gang of Eight that if his four amendments to the immigration reform bill weren’t included that he wouldn’t support final passage. He said he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t take “stiffing lightly.”
Hatch was one of three Republicans who voted for the bill in committee, but he said his support for final passage was contingent on further changes being made to the legislation.
“As I told my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, my support in committee did not guarantee my support for the bill on the floor unless further changes were made to make this bill better,” Hatch said.
His amendments would ensure people on the pathway to citizenship aren’t granted federal welfare benefits, including ObamaCare, for at least five years after gaining citizenship. He also wants to strengthen language in the bill that calls for immigrants to pay back taxes.
The back taxes issue may yet be a deal killer as there have been several GOP senators who have indicated that some means to collect the back taxes of people who have lived here illegally must be found in order to guarantee their support of the final package. And while the House will be dealing with its own immigration bills, the idea that newly legalized immigrants can access Obamacare and other welfare benefits is not going over well on that side of the Hill.
These amendments represent potential booby traps that one side or the other will use in the political maneuvering to come. Democrats won’t want to budge on border security while the Leahy amendment would, if passed, probably sink the entire package.
The Democrats are going to have to give on border security and resist the temptation to pander to the gay community by passing Leahy’s amemdment. Otherwise, it is probable that the entire bill won’t even get 60 votes to overcome a filibuster and die an ignoble death.