Immigration Reform: Senate Votes to Proceed with Floor Debate

Theses are exciting and historic times in Immigration law. In order to keep you apprised of the important legislative proceedings during the CIR debate in Congress, each evening I will try to post the Congressional News and a daily summary of events.

I will also inform about upcoming votes on amendments. Below you will find today’s CIR Daily Update. Please email me with any questions, I know we are all trying to guess what will happen.

CIR Daily Update 5/21/07: Senate Votes to Proceed with Floor Debate
The Senate voted today to begin formal consideration of comprehensive immigration reform legislation. Immediately following this vote, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) agreed to extend debate by one week and indicated that the Senate will resume debate after the Memorial Day recess. Consideration of amendments to the placeholder bill S. 1348 is expected to begin tomorrow with a substitute amendment that would replace the current contents of the bill with the “Grand Bargain” legislation negotiated last week.

Summary of Senate Proceedings—5/21/07
The Senate began debate this afternoon on comprehensive immigration reform.

Senator Sessions (R-AL) opened today’s proceedings with a speech detailing why the Senate should not proceed to a cloture vote today (to place a time limit on further informal consideration of comprehensive immigration reform off the Senate floor, and thereby overcome a filibuster and bring it to formal debate on the floor), and cited his general opposition to the measures currently being proposed in the so-called “Grand Bargain” comprehensive immigration reform bill negotiated last week. Senators Bunning (R-KY), Vitter (R-LA), Corker (R-TN) and Nelson (D-NE) echoed this opposition, and also urged the Senate to take more time debating this complicated bill and not proceed to a cloture vote and subsequent debate prematurely.

Senators Salazar (D-CO), Kennedy (D-MA), Graham (R-SC), Leahy (D-VT), Martinez (R-FL), Domenici (R-NM), Specter (R-PA), Menendez (D-NJ) and McConnell (R-KY) then spoke in support of a cloture vote on the bill, and urged their colleagues in the Senate not to delay bringing the bill to the Senate floor for debate. While many of these Senators who spoke in support of cloture expressed concern over certain provisions in the bargain bill, all stated that the only chance to make any headway on immigration reform this year was to begin formal debate on the Senate floor immediately.

At 5:40 pm, the motion to proceed on S. 1348, the bill that the Senate passed last year and that was introduced as a placeholder by Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) earlier this year, was put to a cloture vote. This vote passed 69-23 in favor of invoking cloture and beginning formal debate.

Next, after cloture was invoked, Majority Leader Reid announced that his timetable for passing the bill in the Senate would be amended. Citing the need for extensive debate on this complex issue, the deadline for a final vote on the bill was moved from this Friday, and extended an additional week. Debate will therefore begin this week, halt during the Memorial Day recess next week, and begin again the following week. A final vote is expected to take place at the end of the second week of debate, around June 8.

After this announcement, Senator Kyl (R-AZ) announced that the bargain bill negotiated last week would be offered tomorrow as a substitute amendment to replace the contents of S. 1348. As of now, no agreement has been announced as to the number of other amendments that will be introduced.

We beleive this “bargain” is unacceptable and unworkable in its current form. However, while the process is still very much in flux, we are working closely with our allies to improve the bargain as much as possible during Senate floor debate over the next few weeks. We will keep you posted about amendment information as it becomes available.