October 24, 2013

Our View: Can Congress pass immigration reform by year’s end?

Congress should bring Senate immigration form bill to House floor for a vote, to show that the country still can do big things.

Now that the U.S. House has passed a water resources bill in surprisingly bipartisan fashion, it should do the same for immigration, an issue with strong support among the public and in Congress across both parties.

The Senate finally passed a bipartisan package (S. 744) on a 68 to 32 vote in June. The president reiterated on Thursday that immigration reform this year is a top priority for him.

The question is whether the same tea party faction in the House that favored the shutdown will allow a House floor vote. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Wednesday that immigration is an “important subject that needs to be addressed.”

Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, a son of immigrants and dairy farmer, has said Boehner has promised a House vote by the end of the year. “I’m going to do my best to hold him to that,” Valadao said.

Citizen activists rallied across the country on Oct. 5 calling for action. That, however, was overshadowed by the shutdown.

At the same time, a coalition of more than 500 Republican, Democratic and independent mayors and business leaders is planning to descend on Capitol Hill on Monday to meet with House Republicans from more than 20 states. They range politically from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.

And the Wall Street Journal reports that big Republican donors are withholding donations from members of Congress who don’t act on immigration. These folks support the bipartisan Senate bill.

Given that the House has only 20 scheduled legislative days before the end of the year – and we’ve already had years of contentious debate and significant give-and-take – why not do a test vote on the House floor to see if the Senate bill would pass?

If the Senate bill fails in such a vote, then try a different approach. Currently, some House members are working on “step-by-step” measures instead of one bill.

That is less than ideal. But White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday that the president would not object if the House passes “several” pieces of legislation on immigration reform so long as he can sign comprehensive reform in the end. “There are a variety of ways to reach the ultimate goal ... the House’s approach will be up to the House,” Carney said.

This could be an opening to get past the rancor of the shutdown.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast on Monday said the business community will press for a House vote, “an opportunity to show the world we can get a big thing done that we can all benefit from.”

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., urges Republicans not to think of immigration reform as working with the president, but as “working on behalf of the American people – not for an Obama solution, not for a tea party solution, but for an American solution.”

The Senate has done its work. The president has indicated he will sign immigration reform. Now it is up to the House to show what it can do in 20 days.

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