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:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


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