Domestic Taxes

Ways and Means chairman: Senate immigration bill unconstitutional

The House’s top tax writer is calling foul on the Senate immigration bill, insisting that the measure is unconstitutional because it raises revenue.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp’s office, in a memo released Thursday, rattled off at least five ways the Senate bill adds to government coffers. The Constitution says that tax measures are supposed to start in the House.

“The Senate bill is unconstitutional, as it includes a number of revenue-related measures such as fees, penalties, surcharges and the non-payment of taxes,” Camp (R-Mich.) said in a statement.

“As such, any consideration of the Senate bill in the House would also be unconstitutional. The House will have to consider its own legislation.”

Camp’s statement gives House Republicans another layer of defense against pressure from Democrats, who say that the Senate bill would easily pass the House with bipartisan support if given a chance by GOP leaders.

{mosads}As Ways and Means chairman, Camp, who is a close ally of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), would normally raise any revenue objections about a Senate bill. That process, known as “blue slipping,” sends a Senate measure that raises revenue back to the chamber.

At the same time, any member of the House, where many members of the GOP strongly oppose the Senate immigration bill, could object.

Lawmakers have also found ways to maneuver around blue slip issues in the past. A Senate Democratic aide, for instance, said that House leaders could merely introduce House legislation with the Senate language to get around the blue slip issue.

“It’s not a serious obstacle at all,” the aide said.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) suggested on Thursday that the Senate had yet to send over their immigration measure, which the chamber passed last month. A GOP aide also said the House had yet to receive the measure.

“It is not correct to say that we have that bill,” Cantor said. “There was a tax, I believe, that was added to the bill, so we do not have that.”

The Ways and Means memo says that the Senate bill creates an immigration fund that takes money from 18 separate fees and penalties, and would allow employers to not withhold taxes from certain agricultural workers.

Camp is even objecting because of a measure that Republicans would likely support in isolation: a provision that would bar people who aren’t citizens from getting certain tax credits included in President Obama’s healthcare law.

Boehner and other top Republicans, like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), have said that the House needs to pass immigration legislation. But while the House GOP is united in wanting stronger border security, the conference is divided over whether U.S. law should ever allow illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship.

“We all believe we need to fix a broken system of immigration, and we need to rebuild the trust of the American people in the operation of government in terms of securing our borders and enforcing the law,” Cantor said Thursday.

Conservatives in the House have also slammed the Senate bill for allowing legalization for immigrants before securing the border, and some, like Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas), raised the “blue slip” issue even before Camp.

—Pete Kasperowicz contributed to this report.

Tags Boehner Eric Cantor John Boehner Paul Ryan Steve Stockman

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