Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Senate Live - May 17, 2006

All immigration, all day.

Congressional Record: Today's Debate on S.2611

Summary of May 16 Action on S.2611

  • S.Amdt.3961 - Isakson: to delay implementing any route to new legal status (i.e., H-2C visa) until and unless the Secretary of Homeland Security certifies the new border security measures are implemented, was REJECTED on a 40 - 55 vote
  • S.Amdt.3994 - Salazar: to require the Secretary of Homeland Security to certify that the legislative measures of the act are in the interests of national security, was PASSED on a 79 - 16 vote
  • S.Amdt.4017 - Dorgan: to deny temporary worker status to any person who has been in the country illegally for less than 2 years, was TABLED on a 69 - 28 vote
  • S.Amdt.3981 - Bingaman: to reduce the limit of H-2C visas to 200,000 per year, survived a Motion to table on a 18 - 79 vote and was PASSED on a voice vote
  • S.Amdt.3999 - Kerry: to increase border agents to 3,500 per year instead of 2,500, and to provide vehicles, computers, armor and other hardware, was PASSED on a voice vote.

S.2611 - The Immigration Bill

List of Proposed Amendments

Text of Amendments 3960 through 3993
Text of Amendments 3994 through 4036

Schedule for May 17 Action

UPDATE @ 09:00 - My rant follows

I checked the text of Salazar's S.Amdt.3994, and it recites approximately this:

"no provision of title IV or title VI is carried out until after the date on which the President makes a determination that the implementation of title IV and title VI will strengthen the national security of the United States"

I got to wondering what Title IV and Title VI of the Immigration Act consist of. Someone jump in and correct me if I'm off base, but here are some references that indicate the general subject matter in those sections of statute.

Title IV


On August 22, 1996, the President signed PRWORA, known as the welfare reform law. The welfare reform law and its amendments imposed new restrictions on the eligibility of aliens, whether present in the United States legally or illegally, for many Federal, State, and local public benefits. 8 U.S.C. 1601-1646 (as amended). Despite these new restrictions, many legal aliens remain eligible for at least some forms of public assistance, such as Medicaid, Food Stamps, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), among other benefits. Congress also chose not to apply the alien eligibility restrictions in the welfare reform law to emergency medical assistance; short-term, in-kind, non-cash emergency disaster relief; public health assistance related to immunizations and to treatment of the symptoms of a communicable disease; certain in-kind services (e.g., soup kitchens, etc.) designated by the Attorney General as necessary for the protection of life and safety; and assistance under certain Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs. 8 U.S.C. 1611(b)(1).

Title VI

Document fraud provisions in Senate immigration bills

Title VI of S 2611 includes the DREAM Act and AgJOBS, but its other provisions have been significantly changed. It would divide undocumented immigrants now in the U.S. into three classes: (1) those who have been present in the U.S. for at least five years before Apr. 5, 2006, (2) those who have been present fewer than five years but for at least two years (since Jan. 7, 2004) (the "two/five-year" group), and (3) those who have been present fewer than two years (i.e., only since Jan. 6, 2004, or a more recent date) or who do not otherwise qualify for the first two groups.

Only those present for more than five years would have access to the earned adjustment process

Congress has asserted that the President must determine that Title IV and Title VI strengthen the national security of the United States. Title IV is generally provision of public service to illegal residents, and Title VI is generally the path to legal status. So ask yourself, do these programs strengthen the national security of the United States. Would you so certify, if you were President? I think the question is a nonsequitur, compared with the general sense that most people take "security" to mean, especially in the context of permitting foreigners to visit, work and/or stay in the United States.

In the process of looking for the meaning of "Title IV" and "Title VI", I found the following resource which I think is outstanding as a matter of providing detail. You may or may not agree with their policy conclusions, but it's at least useful to correlate discussion in the Senate with the intended effect of the legislation.

Summaries of Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006

Another set of snips that summarize the meaning of "Title IV" and "Title VI", these from Bishop Barne's (US Catholic Bishops) April 13 letter to the US Senate.

Title VI would increase our national security by bringing a large number of the approximately 11 million undocumented aliens currently residing in the United States out of the shadows ...

The bishops also support provisions in Title IV and V, which would establish a temporary worker program to permit future flows of workers through legal means (Title IV) and would reorder the family- and employment-based immigration preference systems (Title V). Together, these provisions would adjust our immigration policies so as to both better meet the demand for immigrants and nonimmigrants and to help reunite separated families.

UPDATE @ 09:05 - Or sometime. The sun is shining here for the first time in two weeks, literally. I am apt to be away from my desk, and taking care of the yard that is attempting to transform into jungle.

UPDATE @ 09:45 - Senator Gregg opened for the majority and noted that the Senate is working on a time agreement for handling the Kyl-Cornyn amendment.

Senator Reid goes off on the subject of the government's assorted NSA activities (Terrorist Surveillance and Data Mining). Perhaps he didn't get the memo that Senator Specter is backing away from his expectation that FISC (the FISA Court) be apprised and render an opinion as to the Constitutionality of the Terrorist Surveillance Program. At any rate, Reid acknowledged Senator Roberts negotiations with the administration in preparation for confirmation hearing for Hayden, wherein the administration has agreed to brief all of the members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

Big pow-wow on the floor. Looks like ten or so Senators surrounding Senator Frist, Kyl, Cornyn, McCain, Reid, Specter, Leahy, Kennedy, Durbin ... I suspect they are negotiating time agreements and any order of amendments.

Senator Specter speaks up, expressing that the Senate is ready to proceed. Kyle-Cornyn, 30 minutes equally divided, with the vote to occur at 10:01. The sequence after that to be Sessions (fence), Vitter (either sufficiency of evidence of time of residence, or "striking Subtitles A & B"), Obama (I don't understand this one yet), and Inhofe (English as official language) amendments.

Vitter's S.Amdt.3963 says "Strike sections 601 through 614." which amounts to striking the following sections of the bill ...

Subtitle A--Access to Earned Adjustment and Mandatory Departure and Reentry
Sec. 601. Access to earned adjustment and mandatory departure and reentry.

Subtitle B--Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits, and Security
Sec. 611. Short title.
Sec. 612. Definitions.
Chapter 1--Pilot Program for Earned Status Adjustment of Agricultural Workers
Sec. 613. Agricultural workers.
Sec. 614. Correction of Social Security records.

I take the present schedule order to be as follows, with the caveat that instead of striking AgJOBS and other measures (S.Amdt.3963), the Senate may intend to take up Vitter S.Amdt.3964, which relates to how an alien proves he has been in the country.

Senator Durbin is praising the new language in the Kyl-Cornyn S.Amdt.4027, so we can count on a non-contentious passage of that.

UPDATE @ 10:30 - S.Amdt.4027 - Kyl-Cornyn: Denying absconders (and other criminals) the right to path to citizenship, was PASSED on a 99 - 00 vote.

Senator Specter propounds a UC request that the Sessions amendment have 3 hours, equally divided. Kennedy isn't sure how much time he wants or needs. But clearly, the next couple hours, at least, will be on the fence. Hahahahah - that was a joke, "on the fence."

Sessions notes that the bill (S.2611) still has major problems, and that the Bingaman amendment was a big change. He notes though, this bill creates massive increases in the degree of legal immigration. It's bullshit (pardon my french) that nobody considered the numbers. The entire bill was quite calculated by SOMEBODY, including the number of worker visas to be granted in each category.

Senator Specter confirms a 3 hour time agreement for the Sessions amendment, and notes some uncertainty regarding the time for votes, which may either come after the debate on each amendment, or may be stacked later in the day. Interesting that Specter will be siding with the DEMs, taking the last 45 minutes of debate on the Sessions amendment, after the time of 45 minutes allocated to Senator Kennedy.

UPDATE @ 11:00 - Senator Nelson of Nebraska is all for securing the border first, and indicates a need, at some point, to "square the Senate bill with the House bill." He is advocating a "Secure the border first" bill in place of S.2611. He reasons that S.2611 can't be squared with the House bill, so Congress will be "stuck," at an impasse; and that there will be an influx of illegal immigrants while Congress fiddles.

UPDATE @ 12:40 - Oh my - I totally mistook Specters taking of time after Kennedy as opposition to the Sessions amendment. Specter SUPPORTS the border fence per the Sessions amendment.

Specter is trying to organize a set of three stacked votes at around 2:30 or so, those votes being on Inhofe (English language), Sessions (fence) and Vitter amendments. All time is yielded back on the Sessions amendment.

Vitter agrees with an hour and half, equally divided to cover his amendment. And now we see which amendment he proposes, it is S.Amdt.3963. Lucky guess on may part, above. The Vitter amendment is generally characterized as eliminating the so-called "amnesty provisions" from the bill. So the votes at 2:30 represent a major turning point on this bill, on the part of the Senate.

UPDATE @ 12:55 - Now Vitter has me confused, as he has two amendments, where S.Amdt.3964 refers to documentation that proves time in country. He did call up S.Amdt.3963 when he started talking, as dispensed with reading of the amendment. I'm not sure if there is a plan to cover both of his amendments, or just one of them. Typical mystery of the Senate - they know what's up, sort of ;-) But all clears up in due course.

Senator Specter indicates debate on Vitter until 2:00, then move to the Obama amendment. Two votes at 2:30, Vitter and Sessions.

UPDATE @ 15:10 - S.Amdt.3979 - Sessions: To construct barriers on significant lengths of the border, was PASSED on a 83 - 16 vote.

S.Amdt.3971 - Obama: to establish a wage level for workers who have not completed any education beyond a high school diploma, was PASSED on a voice vote.

Vote on Vitter is underway. There is some debate about when the Inhofe amendment will be taken up, as the DEMs have suggested they will offer a parallel alternative amendment.

With respect to the Vitter amendment, Chaffee, Craig, Frist, Graham, Lugar, Martinez, McCain, Murkowski, Smith, Specter, Voinovich in the NAY column, I think the Vitter amendment is going to be REJECTED.

S.Amdt.3963 - Vitter: To remove provisions giving legal status to certain workers, was REJECTED on a 33 - 66 vote.

UPDATE @ 15:45 - Hutchison and Leahy discussing a matter that applies to the Mexican and Canadian borders, and adds a time frame for implementing personal identification specified in other legislation. I can't find a reference for this at the moment.

Leahy Amendment S.Amdt.???? is PASSED on a voice vote

This was actually S.Amdt.4018 - Stevens, moving the deadline for implementing personal identification requirements for crossing the US-Canada or US-Mexico border, from January 1, 2008; to June 1, 2009

That's a year and a half delay. Bureaucracy moves ever so slowly. But once grown, is nearly impossible to dismantle.

Santorum - Mikulski Amendment, S.Amdt.4000, is PASSED on a voice vote

This amendment (4000) provides visa waivers and favorable treatment for aliens from "program countries," where a "program country" is one that has assisted the United States in its efforts against the war in Iraq. Assignment of this status is performed by the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State.

Senators Specter and Kennedy (and others, amendment sponsors) are trying to work out an order for taking up debate and votes. Senator Specter started out setting up a Cornyn amendment for 2 hours of debate, and Senator Inhofe was puzzled as to what happened to his place in queue.

Senator Kennedy notes that very few DEM amendments have been brought up, not that he's complaining, but he wants opportunity for considering. Kennedy is not quite ready to enter into a UC agreement on the Inhofe amendment, because he doesn't have the DEM parallel amendment. But until the DEMs have that parallel amendment, he doesn't want to enter into a time agreement on the Inhofe amendment.

Inhofe is unhappy that the UC request that set his spot in queue was negated by a subsequent UC request that reordered the debate. I don't think there is a serious dispute here, just a matter of timing and permitting the DEMs to have a parallel alternative to Inhofe.

UPDATE @ 16:10 - Senators have managed to hammer out a time agreement, and Inhofe is pushed off a bit. The order is Cornyn (3965) for 2 hours, then Lieberman-Brownback (I think 4020) for 1 hour, then either Vitter or Inhofe (I think, Inhofe, English as the official language).

S.Amdt.3965 - Cornyn: To remove the ability of an individual to self-petition for guest-worker status. The law currently requires an employer to certify that no American is available. After 4 years as H-2C, they must find an employer willing to sponsor, and they have to attest that no American has stepped forward. These criteria would be required before obtaining permanent legal residency (green card).

Kennedy is on a serious rant against the Cornyn amendment. But notice that the proposed amendment applies only to H-2C visas, which represent a NEW category, a broadened category of guest worker. I think in the long run it is smart to have a safety valve to return temporary/guest workers, rather than grant a pot load of permanent residency.

UPDATE @ 17:45 - Senator Vitter talking about his S.Amdt.3964: To tighten "proof of length residency" documentation, e.g., puts burden of proof on the applicant to produce 2 types of written evidence, none of which comes from relatives, and must provide evidence of employment history as well. He notes that this amendment will be further debated and (hopefully) voted on tomorrow.

And, great news. The lawn has been mowed, by citizen Cboldt.

UPDATE @ 17:50 - Cornyn amendment to be voted on at 18:00, meanwhile jockeying for offering amendments and debating. The Lieberman amendment is, I think, the alternative to the Inhofe amendment, and is not being offered at this time. I assume because it isn't ready yet. Based on this, the DEMs object to taking up the Inhofe amendment right now.

S.Amdt.4064 - Inhofe: is being discussed as a preliminary, or as a time-filler while the agenda is being firmed up. Senator Conrad asks what the effect of the law would be. Inhofe notes that 51 countries and 27 states have adopted similar law.

Inhofe notes excepts: court interpreters act, defendants have right to interpreter. Bilingual ballots remain in place, voting rights act is unchanged. National emergency evacuation requirements remain in place. In other words, this amendment doesn't undo present legislation that prescribes multiple languages. Conrad indicates that he may be interested in being a co-sponsor of the Inhofe amendment.

UPDATE @ 18:00 - I predicted the Cornyn amendment would be rejected. Just leaving a track here, as the "vote" update below has been changed to reflect the actual vote instead of a prediction.

UPDATE @ 18:35 - S.Amdt.3965 - Cornyn: To require a guest worker to be sponsored by an employer that has attested that no American will take the job, in order to be eligible for permanent residency, was PASSED on a 50 - 48 vote. Pretty much along party lines.

From listening, that is, not from the official roll-call vote:
Crossovers to AYE: Byrd, Nelson of Nebraska, Stabenow
Crossovers to NAY: Lugar, McCain, Hagel, DeWine, Graham, Specter, Chaffee, Craig

Dang! That is great. A little bit of teeth, not that an employer won't lie (and get around this law, if it passes), but I didn't like the idea of an immigrant bootstrapping himself into citizenship by asserting, without showing, he's doing a job that Americans won't do.

Specter outlines tomorrow's plans, starting at 9:00 AM. Some of the amendment numbers here are guesses, based on amendments already showing in the Record. Further, some of the amendments planned for tomorrow were introduced today, so amendment numbers and text won't be available until tomorrow.

UPDATE @ 19:00 McConnell closes shop for the day. Only one matter of business, placing the following bill on the legislative calendar:
S.2810 - A bill to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to eliminate months in 2006 from the calculation of any late enrollment penalty under the Medicare part D prescription drug program and to provide for additional funding for State health insurance counseling program and area agencies on aging, and for other purposes.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Two things, I find it interesting but NOT surprising that Specter would take the opposite side of Sessions in this debate...he pretty much dismissed Sessions', Kyl's, and Cornyn's objections during the Judiciary Committee write up of this awful bill.

Also, I have to say I have been SHOCKED at how many Republican Congressweinies have totally mischaracterized the NSA program re: data mining.

This should have been a non-story.

I know how you feel about the other NSA program...but, jeez louise, I bet my grocery store knows more about me than the govt....LOL

Thanks for the wonderful site!


5/17/2006 11:22 AM  
Blogger cboldt said...

The 370 miles of fence is not an all-border fence. It seems to be a good investment, and is not something that Chertoff and the administration are against. This isn't "border first" legislation, or "enforcement first" as the Kyl-Cornyn overarching bill was, before Easter. This is adding fence to a comprehensive immigration package.

So, it's still interesting to me that Specter is strongly opposed - it isn't as though the Sessions amendment represents a substitute to Hagel/Martinez.

ANd funny too, I think, that Senator Nelson of Nebraska -IS- in favor of a substitute, because he thinks S.2611 can't be reconciled with the House bill, leaving the Congress having done nothing.

As for mischaracterizing NSA programs, all sides do that. I have little patience for it. We don't know the facts, so any outrage or support is based on imagination and supposition.

5/17/2006 11:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I missed the debate on Vitter to the point that I have no clue exactly what it is...and even though it isn't going to pass...

I am curious about whether YOU think it was a good amendment.

I would think that any amendment that would limit the amount of illegals that would be eligible for the "amnesty" would be a good thing...and would get more votes.

I was happy that Sessions' amendment passed so easily though.

Also, I DID hear them discuss a while ago that Kennedy wanted a 2 hour debate on the Inhofe Amendment, did Specter describe the intent, but forget to ask for a UC agreement on that??

I am asking you this...because I think we are ALL confused re: Vitter amendment.


5/17/2006 3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well...at least you got your lawn mowed...I have just been getting into fights on FR!! LOL

I have a feeling Cornyn's amendment will fall...makes too much sense...


5/17/2006 6:08 PM  
Blogger cboldt said...

The general problem with understanding the amendments is that one has to understand the underlying bill first, and even the Senators don't have that - nevermind us amateur prognosticators.

I support the Vitter amendment because I think a three-tier approach to illegal residents is too complex. Complexity breeds bureaucracy. I prefer drawing ONE unfair bright line, as opposed to drawing two, and I think a "go home first" requirement, if one is implemented, should not be determined based on time in country.

5/18/2006 2:18 AM  

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