Last week marked the end of the second quarter of the 112th Congress. While the first quarter was somewhat lethargic, the second quarter has proven to be very productive, even if some of the Freshman Members still require a remedial education. Indeed, some of these freshmen campaigned on strong “true reformer” immigration messages, yet have done nothing but make procedural/party-line votes and colorful excuses since joining the Congress.
Nevertheless, beyond these isolated cases, there is good news to share about the 112th Congress. The large Freshman Class is starting to learn the ropes, understand the immigration issue, and become more active in cosponsoring bills, introducing legislation, and offering amendments. Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina reintroduced the SAVE Act (H.R.2000) with 43 cosponsors. The 5 for 5 Club added two new members, Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado and Rep. Brian Bilbray of California, while nine others have cosponsored four out of the five bills, including four Freshman Members: Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania, Rep. Bill Flores of Texas, Rep. Steve Palazzo of Mississippi, and Rep. Rich Nugent of Florida. Likewise, Members in key legislative positions have been prepping significant legislation for floor debate through hearings and mark-ups.
Notably, Committee Chairman Lamar Smith of Texas and Subcommittee Chairman Elton Gallegly of California on the House Judiciary Committee drafted and held a hearing on universal E-Verify legislation that’s even supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: H.R.2164. Similarly, Committee Chairman Doc Hastings of Washington and Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop of Utah have been working on legislation (H.R.1505) to allow border protection activities on federal protected lands in the House Natural Resources Committee (this bill is scheduled for a hearing this Friday). Committee Chairman Peter King of New York, Subcommittee Chairwoman Candice Miller of Michigan, and Freshman Rep. Ben Quayle of Arizona have been working on some strong Department of Homeland Security authorization language in the House Homeland Security Committee. Committee Chairman Hal Rogers of Kentucky, Subcommittee Chairman Jack Kingston of Georgia, and Freshman Rep. Alan Nunnelee of Mississippi have been adding key E-Verify provisions during their work on the House Appropriations Committee. And, on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ranking Member Chuck Grassley introduced one of the best E-Verify bills (S.1196) to ever see the clerk’s desk.
On the other hand, not everything moving through the Senate has been good news. Last week, Senator Dick Durbin and the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security held a mockery of a hearing on the DREAM Act where Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano brought disgrace to both their respective Departments with their testimony. The one silver lining from this hearing is that Republican Senators now have a reason to oppose the DREAM Act without looking overtly partisan because the bill has now been read, heard, and made its fair case.
Most action this quarter has been the result of Appropriation bills being considered on the House floor. At this point, the House of Representatives has passed an Agriculture spending bill, Military Construction spending bill, Homeland Security spending bill, and is working on the Defense and Energy spending bills this week and next. Numerous Members came to the floor with successful and productive amendments, including Democrats and freshmen.
While many immigration-related amendments were ruled out of order by the House Parliamentarian, eight amendments offered by Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.), and Freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.) were adopted and added to the final House version of the bill. Rep. Royce’s amendment (H.Amdt.351) requiring the Secretary of Homeland Security to negotiate new 287(g) agreements passed by a vote of 268 to 151. Rep. Poe’s amendment (H.Amdt.354) to provide a $10 million increase for the border fence by offsetting funding designated to the Office of the Under Secretary of Management passed by a vote of 327 to 93. Rep. Steve King’s amendment (H.Amdt.364) designating funding to remove drug trafficking lookout posts along the U.S./Mexico border passed by voice vote. Rep. Steve King’s amendment (H.Amdt.365) designating funding to hire more Shadow Wolves (border trackers) passed by voice vote. Rep. Barrow’s amendment (H.Amdt.366) designating funding for the Law Enforcement Support Center (national call center that provides assistance to state and local law enforcement) passed by voice vote. Rep. Poe’s offered two additional amendments that passed on voice votes, (H.Amdt.380) to prohibit DHS funding from being allocated to sanctuary cities passed by voice vote and (H.Amdt.382) to limit deferred action (Administrative amnesty) to a case by case basis passed by voice vote. And, the Freshman from Minnesota, Rep. Chip Cravaack, stepped up to take a lead on mandating the detention of criminal aliens prior to removal (H.Amdt.393), which passed by a vote of 289 to 131. On the other side of the issue, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Co.) offered an amendment (H.Amdt.407) to prohibit funding for 287(g) programs, but, it failed by a vote of 107 to 313.
With Members slowly making their way back to Washington after the long 4th of July recess, we are likely to see the House of Representatives start the third quarter with some additional appropriations amendments and votes on the Defense spending bill. This next quarter could end up being the most exciting of the year with votes on the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, the Department of Justice Appropriations bill, and possible consideration of Visa Lottery reform and mandatory E-Verify on the House floor. In the mean time, we’ll keep pressing the Senate, watching for cosponsorships, and keep Freshman Members engaged on the issue.
JONATHAN OSBORNE is the Chief Legislative Analyst for NumbersUSA