Democratic leaders have told the House to pass the Senate immigration bill as is, but they can’t — because Majority Leader Harry Reid hasn’t actually sent the bill over to the House yet.
Two weeks after senators voted 68-32 to pass the bill, Mr. Reid is still holding the 1,200-page measure in his chamber, which means there is no Senate bill for the House to consider.
House Republicans said they don’t expect Mr. Reid to ever send the bill over to them because it would set up an embarrassing vote that would deem the bill unconstitutional, since it raised revenue — a power the Constitution gives to the House, not the Senate.
“The Senate-passed immigration bill is a clear violation of the ‘origination’ clause of the Constitution, which states ‘All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills,’” Rep. Steve Stockman, a Texas Republican, said in a letter to colleagues on Wednesday.
Mr. Stockman got some powerful support Wednesday evening when Congress’s chief tax-writer, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, agreed: “Chairman Camp: Senate immigration bill a revenue bill; unconstitutional and cannot be taken up by the House,” his committee said in a Twitter message.
If Mr. Reid were to send the bill over, Republicans could schedule a vote to assert the House’s constitutional prerogatives in a move known as issuing a blue slip — a designation that officially rejects the bill and forces it back to the Senate.
The Senate bill has become the focus on an intense debate after it passed the chamber last month.
House Speaker John A. Boehner has repeatedly said the bill is dead, and on Wednesday he and his GOP colleagues laid out a strategy that moves the other direction, splitting the issue up into smaller pieces rather than passing a giant legalization bill as the Senate did.
But Mr. Reid and Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who is chief author of the Senate bill, have both said they doubt the House can pass its own bills, and have predicted that eventually the GOP will relent and put the Senate bill up for a House vote.
Mr. Reid repeated that challenge as he kicked off the July legislative session on Monday, touting the 68-32 bipartisan vote that cleared the bill through the Senate late last month.
“Our responsibility didn’t end with that vote. Now it’s our responsibility to convince our colleagues in the House they should vote with us,” Mr. Reid said.
Mr. Reid’s office didn’t return a message seeking comment on why he hasn’t sent the bill over to the House.
A senior Democratic aide, however, said the issue of the Senate bill being ruled out of order by the House shouldn’t stop House lawmakers from passing the same legislation.
“It’s not an issue. The House can simply cut and paste the text,” the aide said.
Under that scenario, which has happened in the past, the House would take the Senate’s language and re-introduce it as a House bill, which could then pass.
But there are signs the Senate bill may not be as popular in the House as Mr. Reid and Mr. Schumer think.
While the bill won unanimous support of Senate Democrats, some House Democrats have objected to the massive boost in Border Patrol agents along the U.S.-Mexico border.
And in a letter on Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi shied away from backing the Senate bill, instead saying it moved the country “one step closer” to a final agreement.
In a letter to Mr. Boehner, she urged the House to work on its own solution in a bipartisan way.