Last Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) took the procedural steps necessary to hold a final vote on the Gang of Eight’s “comprehensive” immigration reform bill, S. 744, by the end of the week.
Votes Start Today at 5:30 p.m.
The first key vote will be held at 5:30 p.m. today on the so-called border “surge” amendment crafted by Gang of Eight leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and John Hoeven (R-ND).
A Controversial Process
While many Americans remember the process of passing legislation through the classic Schoolhouse Rock’s I’m Just a Bill video, the process to pass the Gang of Eight’s bill is much more complicated.
Using Sen. Pat Leahy’s (D-VT) performing arts visa amendment as a shell, Reid attached the Corker-Hoeven amendment to it just before the close of business on Friday. He then made a procedural move that only the Senate Majority Leader can use called “filling the tree,” which the Congressional Research Services explains in their report on The Amending Process in the Senate:
Under certain parliamentary circumstances, a number of amendments may be pending at the same time. The graphic display of the amendments that are in order at any one time can be called an “amendment tree.” Senators sometimes speak of “filling the amendment tree,” when talking about offering a series of amendments to a bill.
Sometimes, the goal of filling the amendment tree might be to prevent or limit further amendments from being offered to the underlying measure.
What does this change?
The process of adding the Corker-Hoeven Amendment to Leahy’s amendment essentially rewrites S. 744 and prevents other Senators from offering further amendments.
Although containing portions of the original Gang of Eight bill, the amendment—totaling nearly 1,200 pages—includes new sections and other significant changes as the Washington Examiner’s Byron York reported over the weekend:
The Hoeven-Corker border security amendment to the Gang of Eight comprehensive immigration reform bill is finally out, and it is huge. Released in several parts, it totals 1,190 pages, amounting to a rewrite of large portions of the original bill. While much of the text of those 1,190 pages duplicates portions of the original legislation, there are entirely new passages and significant changes throughout — enough to keep anyone who cares about what is in the bill busy for quite a while.
Gang of Eight Republicans Criticized This Process in 2010
Despite maintaining the Gang of Eight’s amnesty-first, enforcement-later approach to immigration reform, several Republican Senators have announced they will support final passage if this amendment is approved. This is a similar process that Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Marco Rubio (R-FL) & then-Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) criticized in 2010 with the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
When is the Final Vote?
With the Corker-Hoeven Amendment adding substantial changes to the bill, how will this process work with Reid’s timetable?
Reid said he would file cloture to end debate on the Gang of Eight’s bill on Wednesday. (CQ Today, Jun. 21, 2013) Under the rules of the Senate, this would set the stage for a final vote sometime on Thursday. The timing meets the goal of Reid and the Gang of Eight of rushing their amnesty bill before the July 4 recess.