Immigration measure clears one hurdle, but others await

Legislation to overhaul the country's immigration laws passed a key procedural hurdle Tuesday, as the Senate voted 64-35 to move to the bill and put it on track for a final vote later this week.

The legislation, backed by the White House and most Democrats, must clear at least two more 60-vote tests this week -- allowing a final vote and a budgetary point of order -- and it faces uncertainty in the House, where conservatives on Tuesday said they would try to block it.

"I'm optimistic, but it could fall apart at any time," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Twenty-four Republicans joined most Democrats to approve the procedural motion. The next step, according to leadership aides, is for Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to file an omnibus amendment containing 24 provisions that leaders have agreed will receive individual votes before final passage.

Among the last-minute changes in the list is a proposal by Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., to tighten restrictions on employers who use H-1B and L-1 guestworker visas for highly skilled foreign workers. Durbin's amendment is opposed by the high-tech community but will likely attract support from organized labor and other Democrats who are uneasy with guestworker programs in general.

To keep the list of amendments at 12 for each party, Durbin's amendment will replace one by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., that would have reduced the number of available guestworker visas annually by the number of visa holders who stay in the country beyond their two-year time limit.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., another of the bill's architects, said lawmakers are aware of concerns raised by Democrats that the bill's "point system" for granting green cards is unfair to families. But he tamped down reports that Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., is attempting to reach a separate deal on families.

"That's something we'll deal with in conference," Graham said.

Tuesday's vote gave the bill new life in the Senate, where it had languished after an earlier cloture vote failed. But conservative House Republicans stood their ground, holding a news conference on the Senate side of the Capitol to declare the bill would be dead on arrival in their chamber -- though they do not set the agenda.

Members of the Republican Study Committee also distanced themselves from President Bush, even as Bush was boosting the measure again at the White House.

"If you dislike the status quo on immigration, then you ought to be supporting a comprehensive approach to making sure the system works," Bush said just before the cloture vote was held. After the vote, White House spokesman Tony Snow said administration officials were "certainly pleased" by the outcome.

The RSC members, though, were certainly not pleased. "This bill increasingly is becoming a Democrat initiative ... and we want the folks of America to know what we're doing to try to stop it," said Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich. The House Republican Conference is expected to approve a Hoekstra motion expressing opposition to the Senate bill.

Christian Bourge and Keith Koffler contributed to this report.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.