Update on Immigration Reform: Senate Passes the Bill – Next Step the House

On June 27, 2013, the Senate made big news by passing 68-32 S.744 bill – the comprehensive immigration reform bill that creates a new path toward legal residence for the undocumented and alleviates many problems with the high-skilled and semi-skilled employment needs that the current system cannot currently handle.

The Senate bill is a major overhaul, not seen in a generation whose highlights were discussed previously here. The final bill had minor changes and underwent one major amendment in the last week prior to approval. The amendment, sponsored by Republican Senators Corker and Hoeven, required additional expenditures at the border of approximately $40 billion to ensure the border was secure. Some Senators considered it “overkill,” but nevertheless its inclusion likely pushed several Republican Senators to approve the final bill.

The President applauded the result.  “Nobody got everything they wanted. Not Democrats. Not Republicans. Not me,” Obama said. “But the Senate bill is consistent with the key principles for common-sense reform that I — and many others — have repeatedly laid out.” “Today, the Senate did its job,” he added. “It’s now up to the House to do the same.”

Ah the House. Unfortunately, it needs to approve the bill before it can send it to the President for signature into law. Right now, the Republican-dominated House is not interested in the Senate version, passing out of committee its own piece-meal and much more restrictive bills to solve our country’s systemically anemic immigration system. The bills thus far are disappointing. House Speaker, John Boehner, also has not been positive about immigration reform recently, affirming that no immigration bill will be voted on without the support of a majority of Republicans. This is a tall order because its very unlikely a majority of Republicans are in favor of doing anything for the undocumented.

Nevertheless, there is an unusual procedure called a discharge petition that could possibly work.  As a rule, the only bills that reach the House floor for a vote are ones House leaders allow. However, if 218 members sign a discharge petition, their preferred legislation is brought up for vote whether the majority party’s leadership supports it or not. There are 201 Democrats in the House caucus, so if all of them are prepared to support the bipartisan Senate bill, they would need 17 House Republicans of the 231 GOP House members to sign it. This would require the Republicans to buck their leadership but perhaps there is enough moderate Republicans who would agree.

Its not over until its over. For more information about immigration reform, please contact Denver attorney Catherine Brown for more information