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Senate Readies Test Votes on Immigration Overhaul

Protestors rally for Congress to pass immigration reform in Homestead, Fla. in May. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Morning Line

For the first time in nearly six years the Senate will hold a pair of votes Tuesday on a sweeping overhaul of the country’s immigration system.

The legislation, negotiated by a bipartisan group of eight senators and approved last month by the Judiciary Committee, would bolster border security efforts and create a 13-year path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants now living in the country.

The two procedural votes slated for Tuesday afternoon will determine whether lawmakers are able to move forward with debate on the proposal. Supporters of the plan are hoping for a different outcome than June 2007 when the Senate fell seven votes shy of the 60 needed to proceed to final debate on a bipartisan compromise.

Erica Werner of the Associated Press wrote in her curtain-raiser ahead of Tuesday’s votes that both measures “were expected to succeed by comfortable margins, because even some senators with deep misgivings about the immigration bill said the issue deserved a Senate debate.”

The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, are among the Republicans expected to vote in favor of proceeding with the bill, but notes they face tough choices when it comes to whether they will back the plan in its final form.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver remarks Tuesday morning “reiterating his strong support for commonsense reform legislation,” according to a White House official. The official added the president “will again praise the bipartisan progress that continues to be made in the Senate.”

Mr. Obama will be joined at the event by members of the law enforcement community, business and labor leaders, and elected officials from both parties.

Watch the full remarks of the president:

The New York Times’ Ashley Parker highlights some of the most significant amendments being offered to the bill, including one from Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn called “RESULTS”:

Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, has signaled that he plans to introduce a measure that would require several border security triggers — including a 90 percent apprehension rate of illegal crossings — to be met before undocumented immigrants could transition to lawful permanent residence, or green card, status. His amendment also would require putting into place a biometric exit system and a nationwide electronic-verification system, to ensure employers are not hiring workers who are in the country illegally.

Democratic senators in the bipartisan group of eight that drafted the legislation, as well as immigration advocates, seized on the provisions as logistically unfeasible hurdles that could delay indefinitely a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country. Speaking Sunday on Univision, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, warned that Mr. Cornyn’s amendment was “a poison pill.”

Speaking on the Senate floor Monday, Mr. Cornyn said, “The true poison pill would be the failure to take sensible measures by adopting measures like mine which are designed to solve the problem.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the so-called “Gang of Eight” that crafted the legislation, has warned that the border security provisions currently in the bill need to be strengthened in order to boost conservative support for the proposal in both the Senate and the Republican-controlled House. The challenge there will be addressing the concerns of Republicans without turning off Democrats who believe the provisions make the process too onerous on immigrants.

Proponents of reform are pushing for an overwhelming final vote to ramp up pressure on House lawmakers to act on the Senate version. Reid said last week that his chamber will finish work on the measure before the July 4 holiday recess.

House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday that he remained optimistic Congress could produce a bill by the end of 2013.

“I think, no question, by the end of the year we could have a bill. No question,” Boehner said in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”


At first the question arose whether Edward Snowden should be dubbed “leaker” or “whistleblower.” Now, into the second week of conversation about the National Security Agency’s Internet and phone call data-tracking programs Snowden exposed, he gets the term “traitor.”

The latest official to use that charged moniker is House Speaker Boehner, in his interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

“The disclosure of this information puts Americans at risk,” Boehner said. “It shows our adversaries what our capabilities are. And it’s a giant violation of the law.”

On Monday, Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein called Snowden’s NSA leaks an “act of treason.”

Indeed, the federal government is at work investigating Snowden’s actions as the Justice Department prepares to file charges. Formal charges would help the Justice Department extradite Snowden, whose whereabouts are currently unknown, back to the United States, the New York Times says.

A public opinion poll from the Washington Post/Pew Research Center on Monday showed less sympathy with Snowden than support for the government program. While 41 percent of Americans disapprove of the data surveillance practices, 56 percent think the NSA’s accessing of phone records is “acceptable.”

Thousands, however, have voiced support for Snowden’s actions. A petition on the White House website asking for his pardon has more than 40,000 signatures. Libertarian leader and former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who Snowden supported for president in 2012, thanked the intelligence worker for pushing government transparency. Paul released a statement on the website Campaign for Liberty Monday:

“The government does not need to know more about what we are doing. We need to know more about what the government is doing. We should be thankful for individuals like Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald who see injustice being carried out by their own government and speak out, despite the risk. They have done a great service to the American people by exposing the truth about what our government is doing in secret.”

On Monday’s NewsHour, senior correspondent Judy Woodruff spoke with a former director of national intelligence, retired Adm. Dennis Blair, who argued Snowden is not a credible source and who defended the security practices.

Watch that here or below:

And Gwen Ifill spoke with former Rep. Jane Harman, who is now president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center, and writer James Bamford.

Watch their discussion report here or below:


  • The Obama administration has withdrawn its appeal to a U.S. District Judge’s order to make Plan B One-Step contraceptive pills available to women of all ages over the counter.

  • The Senate on Monday passed a five-year, half-trillion-dollar farm bill on a bipartisan 66 to 27 vote. The measure, which expands government subsidies for crop insurance and makes cuts to the food stamp program, faces uncertain prospects in the House, which is working on its own proposal that would implement even deeper reductions.

  • Four Democrats and two Republicans have filed to run in the Senate special party primaries in New Jersey on Aug. 13. The Democrats include Newark Mayor Cory Booker, state assembly speaker Sheila Oliver, and Reps. Rush Holt and Frank Pallone. Conservative activist Steve Lonegan and physician Alieta Eck are the two Republicans.

  • A poll released Monday by Suffolk University found Democratic Rep. Ed Markey leading Republican Gabriel Gomez 48 percent to 41 percent in the race for the Massachusetts Senate special election on June 25.

  • The Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee unanimously approved the nominations of Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx to be Secretary of Transportation and Penny Pritzker to be Secretary of Commerce on Monday. Their nominations now go to the full Senate for a vote.

  • Bloomberg points out that “the Snowdens are a government family.”

  • House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., will meet with families of the Newton, Conn., shooting on Thursday. Sandy Hook Promise is deploying families to the Hill to mark the six-month anniversary of the shooting and resurrect momentum on background check legislation.

  • Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley is expected to announce Tuesday that he’s forming an exploratory committee to run for Illinois governor.

  • Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell ducked into an elevator Monday to dodge questions about a federal grand jury investigation into gifts he and his family have received, giving Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine an opportunity to urge state lawmakers to tighten restrictions on gifts.

  • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is facing fallout in his reelection effort from the Penn State child sex abuse scandal and the firing of long-time football coach Joe Paterno, Tom Fitzgerald of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes.

  • Former Republican consultant and pioneer of the political tipsheet Doug Bailey has died.

  • And the first woman to represent Nevada — former GOP Rep. Barbara Vucanovich — died Monday at 91.

  • “Wife, mom, lawyer, women & kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD…” Hillary Clinton is now on Twitter.

  • Just in case you’re in the mood to peruse all the charts used as props in Congressional speeches, William Gray of CSPAN has you covered.

  • And don’t miss the Tumblr “Obama is checking your email.”



Christina Bellantoni, Simone Pathe 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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