Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Senate Summary - April 4, 2006

Senate Summary - April 4, 2006

Mr. FRIST. ... Twelve million illegal immigrants now reside in the United States. We hear the figures--11 million, 12 million, or is it 21 million? We don't really know because they are illegal immigrants. We don't know what their names are. We don't know where they are. We don't know exactly what they are doing. One of the goals has to be to bring them out of the shadows.

What has become increasingly clear from our discussion in the Senate is that this is not a monolithic group, these 12 million people. Forty percent have been here longer than 10 years. In all likelihood, they are much better assimilated, maybe fully assimilated into our society today. Forty percent have been here less than 5 years. It may be that we will need to break down this group and look at it. Maybe the 40 percent who have been here for greater than 5 years should have some access to a green card, and the 40 percent who have only been here a few months or maybe even a couple years could be dealt with differently. It is not a monolithic group. A successful, realistic immigration program has to acknowledge the different groups and treat them accordingly. Only then do I believe that we can succeed in getting the 12 million people out of the shadows, encouraging them to identify themselves and then function within the system.

In addition, I support a strong and fair temporary worker program that allows people to fill what employment needs we have, to learn a skill, to send money home, to return to their hometowns to help build and develop their communities. As I said last October, we need this three-pronged approach which begins with border security, strengthens workplace enforcement, and offers a fair and realistic temporary worker program for the hard-working men and women who come to this country to earn for their families back home. All three elements are vital. All three require action. Only a comprehensive approach will fix this broken system. ...

7 . IMMIGRATION REFORM -- (Senate - April 04, 2006)


Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, this morning, the Senate will confirm Michael Chagares to a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. This confirmation will bring the total number of judicial appointments since January 2001 to 235, including the confirmations of 2 Supreme Court Justices and 44 circuit court judges. Of course, 100 judges were confirmed during the 17 months when there was a Democratic majority in the Senate. In the other 45 months, under Republican control, only 135 judges have been confirmed. Ironically, the Senate was almost twice as productive under Democratic leadership as under Republican leadership.

Recently, President Bush withdrew the nominations of Judge Henry Saad to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Daniel P. Ryan to the Eastern District of Michigan. These withdrawals are long overdue and bring to a close a sad chapter in history of judicial confirmations when the President and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee ignored opposition to nominations by the home State Senators. ...

These are not the only nominations the President has withdrawn recently. Last month, the President also withdrew the nomination of James Payne to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals after information became public about that nominee's rulings in a number of cases in which he appears to have had a conflict of interest. Those conflicts were pointed out not by the administration's screening process or by the ABA but by online journalists.

As I discussed last month, at a minimum that case and the other withdrawals reinforce concerns about this White House's poor vetting process for important nominations which became apparent with the withdrawals of Bernard Kerik to head Homeland Security, Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, and Claude Allen to be a Fourth Circuit judge. It was not the administration's vetting but reporting in a national magazine that doomed the Kerik nomination. It was opposition within the President's own party that doomed the Miers nomination. Democratic Senators resisted the nomination of Allen, a Virginian, because the President was seeking to appoint someone from another State to a Maryland seat on the Fourth Circuit. Unfortunately, rather than being thorough in selecting lifetime appointments of judicial officers who are entrusted with protecting the rights of Americans, all too often this White House seems more interested in rewarding cronies and picking political fights. ...

Roll Call Vote 86 : Confirmed 98 - 0
Not Voting : Cochran, Rockerfeller

9 . EXECUTIVE SESSION -- (Senate - April 04, 2006)


A bill (S. 2454) to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for comprehensive reform, and for other purposes.

Pending:

Specter/Leahy amendment No. 3192, in the nature of a substitute.

Kyl/Cornyn amendment No. 3206 (to amendment No. 3192), to make certain aliens ineligible for conditional nonimmigrant work authorization and status.

Cornyn amendment No. 3207 (to amendment No. 3206), to establish an enactment date.

Isakson amendment No. 3215 (to amendment No. 3192), to demonstrate respect for legal immigration by prohibiting the implementation of a new alien guest worker program until the Secretary of Homeland Security certifies to the President and the Congress that the borders of the United States are reasonably sealed and secured.

Dorgan amendment No. 3223 (to amendment No. 3192), to allow United States citizens under 18 years of age to travel to Canada without a passport, to develop a system to enable United States citizens to take 24-hour excursions to Canada without a passport, and to limit the cost of passport cards or similar alternatives to passports to $20.

Mikulski/Warner amendment No. 3217 (to amendment No. 3192), to extend the termination date for the exemption of returning workers from the numerical limitations for temporary workers.

13 . SECURING AMERICA'S BORDERS ACT--Resumed


Roll Call Vote 87 : 0 - 99 Fail Motion to TABLE Kyl amendment No. 3206.


Mr. ENSIGN. Mr. President, at the end of my remarks, I will ask to lay the pending business aside. Let me speak for a moment on the issue of immigration. ...

I have drafted several amendments that are different from the current underlying bill. It is important that these amendments and other legislative proposals be considered for debate.

It is unfortunate that the other side is blocking the amendment process on the bill. They don't want to take some tough votes. I understand that. However, immigration reform is a critical issue facing our country. We must have a full debate in the Senate, which includes an opportunity to bring up amendments, have votes on them, and then determine how to proceed. I, and many of my colleagues, have several amendments that I believe will be very constructive to this process.

Many of us want a verifiable database from which employers can search for the legal work status of their employees. It may be several years before we can actually have that database up and running. The technical problems associated with the database are not addressed in the current underlying bill. I believe some of my colleagues have offered an amendment to address this important issue, and I believe my colleagues should be heard.

We also have to look at Social Security. Two of my amendments address serious issues related to Social Security.

In order to qualify for full Social Security retirement benefits, a worker must work a minimum of 10 years. Under current law, individuals who work in the United States illegally, and later obtain legal employment status, can use their illegal work history to qualify for benefits. ...

I believe there are many technical problems with this bill that must be debated on the Senate floor. These issues should be addressed out in the open so that the American people can see what is being discussed. Unfortunately, this process is not going forward because the amendment process is being blocked.

I ask unanimous consent that the pending amendments be laid aside, and that I would be allowed to offer an amendment at this point.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I object. ...


Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I begin by expressing my appreciation to the Senator from Massachusetts for the kind things he has had to say about the so-called Specter bill, the committee bill. But we can't move forward on legislating with that bill until there is an opportunity for Members of the Senate to offer amendments. We do not have a system where a Senator, even ARLEN SPECTER, offers a bill and it becomes the will of the Senate, it is passed by the Senate without having Senators having an opportunity to offer amendments.

It appears now late on Tuesday afternoon, almost 4 o'clock, that there is a calculated effort by some not to permit this bill to go forward.

We started on this bill on Wednesday afternoon, but we couldn't vote on Thursday until we had sort of a bed check vote. That means one which was going to be unanimous but not a meaningful incursion into the tough issues to try to start to work the will of the Senate. We had a vote at 3 o'clock on Thursday afternoon, but all day Thursday, most of the day, was consumed by debate and not very pointed debate, fairly generalized debate which didn't advance the legislative process very much at all.

Then on Friday, the Senate was in session, but nobody was around. We couldn't offer amendments because the other side of the aisle, the Democrats, wouldn't permit us to.

Then yesterday we structured a couple of amendments on which there was really no objection and voted on them pretty much pro forma.

We are searching for a way to bring up amendments to vote on today and couldn't do that. Then this morning, as the record will show, the distinguished ranking member of the Judiciary Committee offered a unanimous consent request for speeches. When we discussed the matter, we were told that there wouldn't be any opportunity for votes until the party caucuses were finished.

So we twiddled our thumbs, bided our time until 2:30, and then the majority leader called a meeting of Senate Republican Senators to try to find a compromise among disagreements within the Republican caucus. He was waiting for a call back. Finally, we had word that the minority leader had a news conference, and this is what happened, in part, at the news conference. I have a transcript.

Question: Senator Specter was very frustrated this morning at a press conference, saying that work is not really being done because the Democrats are not letting there be votes on amendments, and he can't get agreement on votes on some of the major amendments.

Could you tell us why it is that your strategy suggests--

And then an interruption by Senator Reid.

Maybe Arlen Specter has been so good at what he did in committee that we shouldn't be worried about a lot of amendments.

It would be nice if Arlen Specter was so good, we wouldn't have to worry about a lot of amendments. But let me confess, admit to the totality of the circumstance, that I am not that good, or perhaps I am that good, but my colleagues don't think I am that good and they want to offer amendments. Other Senators want to offer amendments to my bill, so that when Senator Reid says maybe he is so good we shouldn't be worried about a lot of amendments, people want to offer amendments. Two are on the floor now, Senator Kyl and Senator Cornyn.

Then there was a question by one of the reporters not identified:

But if the shoe was on the other foot, wouldn't you be asking for your day on the floor?

Senator Reid: The shoe's not on the other foot.

That is a pretty conclusive answer. A little while later in the press conference:

Senator Reid, Republicans are saying that you're not allowing amendments to be voted on the floor. Is there a reason for that?

Senator Reid: Well, first of all, at my caucus I indicated to those people there who are interested in understanding where the amendments are, want to offer amendments, to talk to Senator Leahy's staff, Senator Kennedy's staff, Senator Durbin's staff. They're putting together all those amendments.

And we're happy to take a look at amendments that don't damage the integrity of the bill. But if it's going to be, in the estimation of the unified Democrats, an effort to denigrate this bipartisan bill, then they won't have votes on those amendments.

I have been around here a while, but I have a hard time understanding that last sentence. I have a hard time understanding:

And we're happy to take a look at amendments that don't damage the integrity of the bill.

The integrity of the bill under Senate procedures is established by votes by Members on amendments. That is how you establish the integrity of the bill.

Then Senator Reid goes on: But if it's going to be, in the estimation of the unified Democrats, an effort to denigrate this bipartisan bill, then they won't have votes on those amendments.

I don't believe there is the power or authority in any Senator or group of Senators to validate, conclude that what other Senators want to offer by way of amendment denigrates the bill and is the basis for not having votes.

We have pending 100 amendments. It is an exact number. It just happens to be 100 precisely. There are 6 amendments pending at the present time: Senator Frist on the study on border deaths; Senator Kyl on nonimmigrant work authorization; Senator Cornyn on a second-degree amendment to Senator Kyl's amendment on nonimmigrant work authorization; Senator Isakson on no guest worker program without border security; Senator Mikulski on extension of returning worker exemption; Senator Dorgan on Canada travel without passport.

There had been a suggestion that we would vote on Senator Kyl's amendment side by side with an amendment by the Democrats. Although I believe such an amendment has been produced by the Democrats, they are unwilling to permit us to vote on it side by side.

Mr. KYL. Mr. President, will the Senator yield for the purpose of a unanimous consent request?

Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I will on the condition that I do not lose my right to the floor.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. KYL. Mr. President, to verify what the chairman of the Judiciary Committee has just said, I ask unanimous consent that we proceed to the regular order for a vote on amendment No. 3206, which is the amendment I offered last Friday to which Senator Specter just referred. There is a second-degree amendment that was offered by Senator Cornyn, and there is the text of an amendment that I have possession of that was, I believe, produced by Senator Kennedy that would be the Democrat side-by-side amendment, and we could vote on that amendment after the vote on the second-degree amendment and my amendment No. 3206. So we can determine right now whether the Democratic leadership is preventing us from having votes on amendments, such as the amendment that I filed last Friday.

I ask unanimous consent that we proceed to the regular order and that my amendment No. 3206 then be pending and proceed to a vote on that amendment.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

Mr. REID. Yes.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

Mr. KYL. Mr. President, will the chairman of the Judiciary Committee yield for the purpose of my propounding another unanimous consent request?

Mr. SPECTER. I so yield on the stipulation I not lose my right to the floor.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. KYL. Mr. President, this unanimous consent request is simply to send to the desk amendment No. 3246, an amendment that Senator Cornyn and I would like to send to the desk.

Mr. REID. What is the question?

Mr. KYL. To lay aside the current business and send to the desk amendment No. 3246.

Mr. REID. I object.

Mr. KYL. There is objection heard to that?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

Mr. KYL. I thank the Chair.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Pennsylvania has the floor.

Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I renew the unanimous consent request by the Senator from Arizona, Mr. Kyl, for a vote on his pending amendment at 4:30 p.m.

Mr. REID. Mr. President, I object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I renew the unanimous consent request by the Senator from Arizona for a vote on his amendment at 5 o'clock.

Mr. REID. I object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

Mr. SPECTER. I renew the request of the Senator from Arizona for a vote on his amendment at midnight.

Mr. REID. Mr. President, reserving the right to object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Democratic leader.

Mr. REID. We are witnessing here a new procedure in the Senate that I am not familiar with, and that is legislating by press conference. ...


Mr. KYL. Mr. President, I think I misspoke a while ago and talked about the amendment that I introduced last Friday--actually, it was last Thursday--that Senator Cornyn and I, and I believe Senator George Allen is a cosponsor--introduced, amendment No. 3206.

My question to the chairman is this: In the bill, there is a variety of benefits that are provided to illegal immigrants who are in the United States today in that they are allowed to gain a legal status which can lead to legal permanent residency, sometimes called a green card, from which one can apply for citizenship. There are some conditions attached to that. Is it not correct that the amendment Senator Cornyn and I offered simply adds to those requirements, or those benefits, the additional requirement that the individual seeking the benefit not have been convicted of a felony or three misdemeanors, or have violated a judge's order of departure from the United States?

Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, the statement made by the Senator from Arizona is correct.

Mr. KYL. Mr. President, to the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, in your view, is that an amendment that is germane and relevant and very specific in that it would add one more requirement to the conditions that are allowed--with the benefits--that are allowed under the bill, and would it be your view that in no way would that be a nongermane or nonrelevant kind of amendment?

Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I would respond in the affirmative. I would add that this isn't an amendment which, in Senator Reid's words, denigrates this bipartisan bill. I would say it enhances the bill. ...

Mr. REID. Mr. President, with all due respect to the distinguished chairman of the Judiciary Committee, he has been in this body a lot longer than I have, but I still understand the rules of the Senate. At this stage, as a Senator from the State of Nevada, I am not ready to move forward on the Kyl amendment. I do not have to explain in any more detail than I have why I do not want to move forward on it. I do not agree with the amendment. I don't think it is going to benefit this legislation pending before the Senate. I am going to do what I can to prevent a vote on it. I can't be more direct than that to the distinguished chairman of the Judiciary Committee. ...


Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, the distinguished Senator from Vermont is correct. We did have a closed-door meeting with only Republican Senators present. I know they have a superior procedure among the Democrats and never have a closed meeting where only Democratic Senators are present. I know there is an operational rule where at least one Republican Senator has to be present whenever the Democrats meet.

That is supposed to be a laugh line. ...


Mr. KYL. Mr. President, let me yield some time to myself ...

The second group is those who have committed immigration violations, not just people who are in some status violation. Let me make that crystal clear. It is not simply because you overstayed your visa. There are only two categories here. You have not complied with a prior Department order and, therefore, are not eligible to participate in the program.

In the hearing, by the way, of our subcommittee, we showed that between 80 and 85 percent of those released on bail failed to appear and comply with removal orders. Clearly, this has to demonstrate a disrespect for orders from immigration courts and should not be allowed to continue. These are exactly the kind of people you do not want to be participating in the program because they have already demonstrated a willingness to violate immigration law after being ordered to do so.

Secondly, those who have not only failed to depart after being ordered--they have entered illegally, but that is not what we are talking about here. Entering illegally does not count under this amendment to deny them benefits. Rather, you have to have done that and been ordered by the court to depart as a result of some violation and further refused to comply with the judge's order. ...


Mr. REID. Mr. President, I will be happy to respond to that. I will respond to the distinguished majority leader. We have had three votes on Frist-Reid, Bingaman, and the other was--anyway, we have had three amendments, and they are amendments that we would be happy to sit down and discuss, as I indicated earlier, and--the other is the Alexander amendment, thank you--sit down and find a way we can proceed.

We have Mikulski-Warner, Dorgan-Snowe-Burns, the Bond amendment, I think it is Collins, Brownback-Lieberman have an amendment, Stevens-Leahy have an amendment. So there are some amendments we could work on.

But let me just say this: We are happy to try to work something out. It is my belief--and people could disagree. It is certainly everyone's right to disagree. I don't think some of these amendments, some of these amendments I have talked about, would take away what I call the integrity of the bill. But I do say to my friend--and he is my friend, the distinguished majority leader--we have had example after example in the last many years where there is legislation on this floor and we are not allowed to offer amendments. We offer them once in a while, we don't get votes on those, and we are not allowed to offer amendments.

As my mother would say, they are getting a taste of their own medicine.


Mr. DOMENICI. Senator Specter, would you yield for 1 minute?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Democratic leader has the floor.

Mr. REID. I am happy to yield to my friend, the distinguished Senator from New Mexico, for a statement of 1 minute or 2 minutes, whatever he cares to speak.

Mr. DOMENICI. I didn't want to ask you because what I was going to say you wouldn't like.

Mr. REID. I may not like what you say, but I like you.

Mr. DOMENICI. Thank you very much. I tell you, I really cannot believe what I heard here today. I have been here 34 years, and I cannot believe what I have heard today. I have heard a minority leader say we are peeved because we have not had what we think is a fair shake over the last couple of years since you have been running this place, so we are going to manage this bill from the minority leader chair, and there are going to be no amendments considered unless the minority, the ranking minority Member of the Senate puts his imprimatur on them.

Mr. LEAHY. Imprimatur.

Mr. DOMENICI. No matter how important the bill is--imprimatur, no matter what it is. I said it the Italian way. You said it the French way. You all know what it meant: stamp of approval. Stamp of approval.

I have never heard of such a thing, never saw Senators standing around--they were in awe. What is he talking about?

The bill that is before us, he likes. He has had a caucus, and those Senators on the other side said this is a neat bill, this is what we want to pass, and we sure don't want any amendments offered and voted on that stir up that thing we like so much to any extent because we don't want to get our Senators in any trouble. We don't want them voting on any of these kinds of things that muddle up this bill. So our leader is going to stand up here and say we have just changed the Senate, and we are going to do it this way. There will be no amendments unless HARRY REID, elected as the minority leader of the Senate, says, ``OK.'' ...

Cloture Motion

We, the undersigned Senators, in accordance with the provisions of rule XXII of the standing rules of the Senate, do hereby move to bring to a close debate on the Specter substitute amendment No. 3192. Patrick J. Leahy, Edward M. Kennedy, Robert Menendez, Frank R. Lautenberg, Joseph I. Lieberman, Carl Levin, Maria Cantwell, Barack Obama, Tom Harkin, Hillary Rodham Clinton, John F. Kerry, Dianne Feinstein, Richard Durbin, Charles E. Schumer, Harry Reid, and Daniel K. Akaka.


Mr. BYRD. Mr. President, today, I speak on the Specter-Leahy substitute to S. 2454, the Frist border security bill.

At the present time, the Frist bill contains no amnesty for illegal aliens. However, if the Specter-Leahy substitute is adopted, it would effectively attach a massive amnesty for 8 to 12 million illegal aliens and provide those illegal aliens with a path to U.S. citizenship. According to immigration experts, the pending substitute amendment--with its guest-worker program and amnesty for undocumented aliens--would open the gates to 30 million legal and illegal immigrants over the next decade.

I oppose this amnesty proposal--absolutely and unequivocally. I urge the Senate to pass a clean border security bill like the House did--without amnesty, without a guest-worker program, and without an increase in the annual allotment of permanent immigrant visas. ...

What's backwards about the pending substitute amendment is that it is actually rewarding illegal aliens. It rewards illegal behavior. It authorizes illegal aliens to work in the country. It grants illegal aliens a path to citizenship. It pardons employers who illegally employ unauthorized workers. It even repeals provisions in current law designed to deny cheaper, in-state tuition rates to illegal aliens.

The pending amendment is a big welcome mat for illegal immigrants. It is a misguided and dangerous proposal that would doom this Congress to the failures of previous Congresses.

15 . SECURING AMERICA'S BORDERS ACT--Continued

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