Senate adopts committee amendments to immigration reform

Adoption of that committee-reported amendment showed there was more than enough Republican support for final passage, but just short of the 70 votes some of bill’s authors were hoping for to put more pressure on the House to take up the legislation.

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A major critic of the bill and amendment process was Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) — also the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee. He said the bill repeats mistakes made under the 1986 immigration reform by providing “legalization first, border security later, if ever.” Grassley said if more amendments had been considered on the floor, improvements could have been made to the legislation.

“I feel a bit used and abused in this process for 2.5 weeks we’ve been pushing to get votes on our amendments,” Grassley said. “We’ve had a measly 10 votes on amendments.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said the same Republicans who have been calling for more amendments have blocked unanimous consent agreements to vote on more. On Wednesday evening, Reid asked to vote on 32 amendments, 17 of which were from Republicans. Grassley objected saying Democrats were simply trying to “sweeten” the deal to get more votes at the last minute.

“I may be a farmer, but I didn’t just fall off the hay wagon,” Grassley said. “The majority party has offered an agreement that, in our view, is insufficient.”

Leahy offered a similar deal Thursday morning, but was again blocked by Republicans.

The substitute amendment that passed increases guest-worker visas for high- and low-skilled workers and would require the use of an E-Verify worker system so that employers don’t hire immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. The bill also increases border security funds and creates a 13-year pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people illegally in the country. Dreamers, young people brought to the country by their parents who are in school or in the military, would get an expedited pathway, waiting just five years.

The Congressional Budget Office has said in the first 10 years, the bill will generate $197 billion, and in the decade after that, nearly another $700 billion, but Republican 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.

Later Thursday, the Senate will vote to end debate on the bill, S. 744. A deal is likely to be reached so that the vote on final passage could occur Thursday afternoon.

“Everyone knows we’re poised to pass a historic immigration bill,” Reid said ahead of the vote. “There’s no reason to delay this.”