Senate Forges Ahead With Immigration Bill Despite Murky Fate in House

BY Terence Burlij and Christina Bellantoni  June 21, 2013 at 9:02 AM EDT


A U.S. Customs and Border Protection bike patrol agent in Nogales, Ariz., on June 2, 2010. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

The comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate received a boost Thursday with the announcement of an agreement on beefed up border security provisions, putting the overhaul on a path toward passage in the chamber next week. But there are lingering questions about whether the breakthrough in the Senate will produce enough force to push the House to act on the legislation.

The border security compromise reached Thursday by Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., would require the federal government hire an additional 20,000 border patrol agents and complete 700 miles of fencing along the southern border before the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country could obtain green cards.

“Some people have described this as a border surge, and the fact is that we are investing resources in securing our border that have never been invested before,” Corker said.

The proposal would cost about $30 billion, which supporters said would be offset by the $197 billion in deficit savings over the next decade, a projection released earlier this week by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

“This is about getting the job done with border security,” Hoeven told Ray Suarez on Thursday’s NewsHour. The North Dakota Republican predicted the deal will make a big difference as the Senate moves toward final passage.

Suarez asked Hoeven if the measure would help build momentum to get more than 60 votes in the Senate. “Oh, absolutely, and I think we should be, we should try to be at 70 or more if possible,” he responded.

The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake and Ed O’Keefe compiled a whip count of how senators are likely to vote on the overall bill given the likely inclusion of the Hoeven-Corker amendment. (And Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly endorsed immigration reform Thursday night.)

By the time the Senate adjourned late Thursday the official language of the new border security plan had not been introduced. That is expected to come Friday.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, urged his colleagues earlier in the day Thursday to “take a deep breath” and evaluate the proposal before signing off on the legislation. “It seems to me we have the cart ahead of the horse,” Cornyn said.

Others said they remained skeptical the Hoeven-Corker provision would do enough to address their concerns with the overall bill. “Fundamentally there are a host of problems I think with the legislation, and if we were to deal those in an effective way, in a way that meets the common interest of the American people, I think we can get something done,” Alabama GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions told reporters following an afternoon press conference. “But we’re a long way from that today and I don’t think this amendment is going to touch many of the objections I spoke about.”

Democrats welcomed the Hoeven-Corker compromise.

“This agreement has the power to change minds in the Senate,” said Gang of Eight member Chuck Schumer of New York, who helped negotiate the agreement with Hoeven.

The New York Times Michael Shear notes that President Barack Obama’s administration has launched a stealth campaign on Capitol Hill to help secure passage of the bill.

And while the prospects for a decisive vote in the Senate have improved, the bill faces an uncertain future in the House, especially following Thursday’s collapse of the farm bill.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, signalled Thursday that a strong showing in the Senate would not influence the path forward in his chamber. “Regardless of what the Senate does, the House is going to work its will.”

On Thursday’s NewsHour, Suarez also spoke with Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., about his take as a border state senator. Udall said that a strong vote will send a message to the House. “I don’t know that it makes that much of a difference between 60 and 70. I think the important thing is that we have made a statement that is bipartisan, and then it’s going to be the responsibility of the House to either take up our bill or do something themselves and then get it into conference,” he said.

Watch the segment here or below:

SCOTUS RULES

Humanitarian organizations that fight HIV and AIDS abroad and receive funding from the U.S. government won a battle in the Supreme Court over free speech rights on Thursday, NewsHour reporter-producer Katelyn Polantz reported.

The groups, including the Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS, said they were stymied by U.S. government policy set in 2003. Congress had allocated to governments and non-governmental organizations $60 billion to fight the spread of HIV and AIDS and other diseases. But the money came with a caveat — the groups couldn’t use it to advocate for the legalization of prostitution, and they would have to formally adopt a policy opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.

The government telling the organizations to adopt an ideological policy was the problem in this case, the Supreme Court found in a 6-to-2 ruling. That measure, tied to the government funding, overstepped the groups’ First Amendment rights. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, and humanitarian organizations rejoiced. They had argued for this outcome — one that could allow them to continue working peacefully in countries that allow prostitution, and helping former sex trafficking victims, prostitutes and their children.

On the other hand, the U.S. government had warned in its case that this outcome could hurt groups fighting against sex trafficking and could undercut the efforts of the humanitarian organizations.

The ruling could carry further. Congress may have to curtail the ways it attaches conditions to federal funding.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia dissented. They argued the government’s parameters were “nothing more than a means of selecting suitable agents to implement the government’s chosen strategy to eradicate HIV/AIDS.”

“That is perfectly permissible under the Constitution,” they wrote.

The Supreme Court now has 11 pending decisions after Thursday’s opinions were released. We’re watching a few major topics still outstanding: affirmative action in higher education, the Voting Rights Act section 5, and California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which both involve same-sex marriage.

Don’t miss the updates to our Oral History Hotline page, which collects audio memories from when the Voting Rights Act passed.

Monday is the next decision day. The NewsHour homepage will host SCOTUSblog’s live coverage beginning at 10 a.m. In her column this week, NewsHour senior correspondent Gwen Ifill commented on the seemingly endless summer wait for those big decisions.

For more on the Supreme Court’s 2012-2013 term, visit our SCOTUS page.

LINE ITEMS

  • Conservative Republicans joined with Democrats Thursday to defeat the farm bill, embarrassing Boehner and kicking off a bipartisan blame game. Nancy Pelosi dubbed the exercise “amateur hour.” Lobbyists were stunned. You can watch our report.

  • Senators may be close to a deal to prevent student loan rates from increasing on July 1.

  • The president is holding his first meeting with his privacy and civil liberties board in the wake of concerns over government surveillance programs.

  • Reuters reports, “The Obama administration has appointed Twitter lawyer Nicole Wong to a new senior advisory position to focus on internet and privacy policy.”

  • With a Montpelier, Vt. dateline, the Associated Press reflects on Howard Dean’s political career.

  • And CNN reports that Dean would consider another run for president in 2016.

  • Sen. Claire McCaskill said she got a call from Hillary Clinton after endorsing the former secretary of state ahead of a potential 2016 presidential bid.

  • A Republican super PAC officially launched a “Stop Hillary” effort.

  • If birthright citizenship was repealed and you had to earn your American citizenship by passing an exam, would you?

  • Guy Taylor writes for the Washington Times about a report from a State Department watchdog that found the bureau “charged with promoting the U.S. image to the world is rife with management problems that have left ‘an atmosphere of secrecy, suspicion and uncertainty.’”

  • California Gov. Jerry Brown was handed a mandate from federal judges to release prisoners from the state’s overcrowded prisons.

  • Reggie Love gets all sentimental.

  • Game. On. WUSA covers the Congressional Women’s Softball Game.

NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

  • What could be better than a live Doubleheader with Hari Sreenivasan, Mark Shields and David Brooks Friday night? A live Doubleheader with prizes. That’s right, people. Tweet your suggested questions to @NewsHour using the hashtag #DoubleheaderLive.

  • Do you think more money would make you happier? It might. Has money increased the emotional well-being of most Americans? No. Paul Solman explores the relationship between money and behavior, and gets some insight into his own state of mind.

  • Miss Gwen’s “Ask me Anything” on Reddit? Relive it here.

  • NPR’s Mike Pesca explains to NewsHour viewers why the NBA and NHL finals are so captivating.

TOP TWEETS

Katelyn Polantz and desk assistant Mallory Sofastaii contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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