Immigration issues sidetrack Senate work on spending bill

The contentious issue of immigration reared its head Wednesday during the Senate's debate over the annual Homeland Security appropriations bill, essentially grinding floor action to a halt and forcing Democrats to use procedural tactics to defeat a Republican-backed proposal.

Debate over the fiscal 2008 spending bill, which would allocate $37.6 billion to the Homeland Security Department, bogged down as lawmakers grappled with an amendment from Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Judd Gregg, R-N.H.

The Graham-Gregg amendment proposed adding $3 billion more to the bill and included specific language to crack down on illegal immigrants in the United States, including giving law enforcement agencies new powers to arrest and deport illegal aliens.

Unable to negotiate an agreement on the amendment, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., raised a point of order against it, saying it would add policy legislation to an appropriations bill. The point of order was sustained by a 52-44 vote, essentially killing the amendment.

Reid said the GOP senators were attempting to "re-legislate immigration reform" and proposing measures that would "take away basic rights that people have."

After the defeat of the Graham-Gregg amendment, Reid and Republicans tried to negotiate an alternative agreement under which the additional $3 billion for border security would still be added to the bill, while dropping the legislating language.

But the effort broke down when Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, objected to the agreement because it did not include language directing the Homeland Security Department to target foreigners in the country who have overstayed their visas.

"I'm very sorry there will not be the money for border security, but that's the way it is," Reid said.

On another front, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said he wants to offer an amendment that would beef up border security combined with a bill creating a temporary worker program for agriculture workers and another measure to put illegal immigrant children on a path to citizenship.

"If you're going to have border security you're going to have to have some way for these workers to get in there," Kennedy said about farm workers.

The citizenship proposal would apply to students who are illegal immigrants if they entered the United States before they turned 16 and lived in the country for at least five years. They would be granted temporary legal status for six years during which they must attend college or serve in the military. They would then be eligible to receive a green card.

It was not clear late Wednesday what kind of amendment Kennedy would offer, if any. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asked senators to include the farm workers measure in the upcoming farm bill.

After disposing of the Graham-Gregg amendment, Reid pleaded for senators to complete work on the Homeland Security spending bill.

"This afternoon we're back in the bog trying to claw through legislation we shouldn't have to," he said. "Gee, this is not the way to go."

He added: "I remind everyone we still have a lot to do ... We have to finish this bill."

An amendment from Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., would allocate $300 million to help state government comply with the so-called Real ID law, which requires states to begin issuing secure driver's licenses by next May. The amendment would be offset by cuts to other Homeland Security programs.

An amendment from Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and ranking member Susan Collins, R-Maine, would allocate $100 million to help state and local governments buy interoperable communications equipment. It would be offset by an across-the-board cut of 0.27 percent.

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

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

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

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