- The Washington Times - Monday, July 29, 2013

The immigration bill passed the Senate more than a month ago but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is refusing to send the bill to the House — just one of the hurdles that has sapped momentum and dimmed the chances for an immigration deal this year.

Since the Senate’s 68-32 vote June 27, the bipartisan coalition that pushed the immigration bill has frayed.

One key lawmaker, Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, has taken a lower profile in pushing the bill to conservatives, while some on the left have begun to complain about the border security boost that was used to win over Republican lawmakers.

Now, Congress is preparing to head home for August without the House having passed any of its own immigration bills — breaking the schedule President Obama had sought and sending lawmakers home to face voters.

The White House on Monday held onto an optimistic outlook.

“I won’t deny that we would be perfectly happy for the House of Representatives to pass that bipartisan legislation today and have a signing ceremony at the end of the week. I don’t anticipate that’s going to happen,” deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said. “But I do think that there’s pretty strong momentum built up behind this piece of legislation.”


SPECIAL COVERAGE: Immigration Reform


For now, there is no bipartisan bill for the House to vote on because of Mr. Reid’s decision. Of the 31 Senate-written bills his chamber has passed this year, the immigration bill is the only one the Nevada Democrat hasn’t forwarded.

Mr. Reid’s office didn’t return multiple messages asking about his thinking.

House GOP leadership offices said they haven’t spoken with Mr. Reid about the holdup, but some lawmakers say he is trying to avoid the embarrassment of a defeat.

House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, has said he won’t bring the bill as is for a vote, and the government’s chief tax-writer, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, Michigan Republican, has said the bill is unconstitutional because it raises revenue — and all revenue bills are supposed to originate in the House.

One Senate Democratic aide said the constitutional issue is a small hurdle and that House Republicans could just take the Senate language and introduce it as their own House bill.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican who led opposition to the bill in the Senate, said that would be a disaster for his party and would have the effect of rescuing a bill that is already crumbling.

“The GOP has a choice: It can either deliver President Obama his ultimate legislative triumph — and with it, a crushing hammer blow to working Americans that they will not soon forgive — or it can begin the essential drive to regain the trust of struggling Americans who have turned away,” he wrote in a strategy memo addressed to his House colleagues.

Of the 46 Republicans in the Senate, just 14 voted for the immigration bill, joining all 54 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus, who also voted for it.

In the House, however, the bill is less popular on both sides of the aisle.

Some House Democrats object to the 20,000-agent boost in the Border Patrol, while many Republicans say the bill is too generous to illegal immigrants while still falling short on interior enforcement.

The emerging House GOP strategy involves bringing several immigration bills to the chamber floor and tackling the issue in pieces — as opposed to the Senate bill, which wrapped legalization of illegal immigrants, creation of guest-worker programs, rewriting the legal immigration system and boosting interior and border enforcement into a single 1,200-page bill.

Advocates say all of the elements must be tied together or else the coalition of labor unions, businesses, Hispanic advocacy groups and religious organizations will become too fractured.

Seeking to rebuild support, the White House said Mr. Obama will use August, when Congress is out of town, to push for an immigration deal.

“I think that momentum is only building. And we’ll see how House Republicans respond to that pressure,” Mr. Earnest said.

In an effort to bolster support among rural lawmakers, the White House warned Monday that farmers could experience a shortage of workers if the administration were to begin enforcing immigration laws, and Mr. Obama made another push to rejuvenate the faltering prospects for getting an immigration bill accomplished this year.

In a 20-page report looking at immigration and American agriculture, the White House said farmers are already having trouble recruiting workers, and many of those are cutting back on what they grow or are moving operations abroad as a result of the labor shortage.

That comes even at a time when the administration says it isn’t targeting those rank-and-file illegal immigrants for deportation — something the administration hinted could change, and could harm farms and rural communities.

“Without providing a path to earned citizenship for unauthorized farmworkers and a new temporary program that agriculture employers would use, a significant portion of this farm workforce will remain unauthorized, thereby susceptible to immigration enforcement actions that could tighten the supply of farm labor,” the report said.

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