Landmark Immigration Bill Faces Tough Road in House
While the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill—which has broad association support—on Thursday in a bipartisan vote, the legislation is widely expected to struggle in the House of Representatives.
For the first time in more than a quarter-century, a comprehensive immigration reform bill has passed the Senate. But will the broad support it had in that chamber—and among a wide range of business, labor, and technology groups—be enough to ensure passage in the House?
On Thursday, the 1,200-page Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, which offers a path to residency and citizenship for both low-skilled and high-skilled workers, passed the Senate with bipartisan backing.
The bill, championed by the Senate’s bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” also drew strength from the backing of unlikely allies—the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO. The Senate voted to approve it, 68-32.
The legislation, strongly supported by the technology sector in particular, gained additional bipartisan support after the adoption of an amendment by Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Bob Corker (R-TN) that would boost border security.
Several associations in the technology, manufacturing, and retail sectors welcomed the news, with the Internet Association calling passage “a momentous step in our nation’s history”; the National Association of Manufacturers saying it was “evidence that bipartisanship can still be found in Washington, DC”; and the National Grocers Association calling it “an important step in the right direction.”
One of the more high-profile winners is FWD.us, the advocacy group started by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg; it spent $5 million on the immigration reform push, its first major lobbying effort.
Despite widespread support for the measure in the business community, the National Federation of Independent Business raised concerns about certain details, particularly a section that would create an agency to measure worker shortages and adjust caps on employment-based visas. NFIB was a high-profile critic of the bill when debate on it started in the full Senate earlier this month.
The bill now goes to the House, where passage is expected to be considerably more difficult. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has pledged to follow the GOP’s unofficial the “Hastert Rule“—named for former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who refused to bring a bill to a vote unless it had the support of more than half of his conference’s members.
“For any legislation, including a conference report, to pass the House, it’s going to have to be a bill that has the support of the majority of our members,” Boehner said, according to The Washington Post. The speaker suggested that the House would come up with its own version of immigration reform instead.
Opponents of the Senate’s comprehensive bill argue that its border security measures are not strong enough and reject any “pathway to citizenship” provisions for those already in the country illegally, which some consider amnesty.