Vitter: Border surge amendment is a ‘fig leaf’ not ‘fix’

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Later Monday, the Senate will vote on whether to end debate on a substitute amendment from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). His amendment included the “border surge” language from GOP Sens. Bob Corker (Tenn.) and John Hoeven (N.D.). 

In the underlying bill an E-Verify system and entry-exit system at air and seaports must be in place before anyone is given a green card. The amendment from Corker and Hoeven would also require construction of 700 miles of fencing on the southern border, the purchase of more than $3 billion in new technology for border security, and the hiring of 20,000 more border patrol agents mandatory before green cards are issued.

Vitter called the Corker-Hoeven deal a “backroom gang agreement.” Some Republicans have complained that the bill repeats mistakes made during the last major immigration reform in 1986 when people were given citizenship before border security enforcement measures were in place.

“The amendment, as the bill is, is amnesty now, enforcement later, maybe,” Vitter said. “The only metric is spending money. We all know the federal government is great at spending money … but if that were all that mattered then we’d have a rip-roaring economy.”

Increased border security measures in the amendment come with a price tag of $46 billion, but supporters point out that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) still estimated a net gain for taxpayers.

CBO has said in the first 10 years, the bill will generate $197 billion, and in the decade after that, nearly another $700 billion, but Republicans critics of the measure say those gains are to the Social Security Trust Fund and shouldn’t be used to pay for other projects since the money will have to be returned to the trust fund at some point.

Corker defended his amendment, saying it has “five tangible triggers” that Republicans have demanded and takes power out of the hands of the Department of Homeland Security to waive border security provisions. The trigger must be in effect 10 years after the bill is signed into law.

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture on the comprehensive immigration reform bill and final passage is expected by the end of the week.