Democratic and GOP leaders in the Senate are delaying a vote on the huge 2015 government budget until Monday because they’re trying to block a floor vote on President Barack Obama’s unpopular amnesty of 12 million illegals.
The leaders may be able to avoid a direct vote on the unpopular amnesty, but they likely will be forced to vote on whether there should be a vote on blocking funds for the amnesty, and a vote on whether the amnesty is constitutional.
The two votes will reveal which Senators favor the use of low-wage migrant workers in jobs sought by Americans, including low-income, minority and unemployed Americans, said one Hill aide.
Three diverse GOP Senators are pushing for amnesty votes — Utah Sen. Mike Lee, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions.
They’re backed up by some sympathetic GOP Senators, and by voters who paralyzed the Capitol Hill switchboard on Thursday. That’s when the House’s GOP leader. Rep. John Boehner joined with Obama to strong-arm House approval for the $1.1 trillion bill, which doesn’t include any language barring spending on Obama’s amnesty.
They’re also backed up by Heritage Action, For America, and grassroots immigration-reform groups, including NumbersUSA, Americans for Legal Immigration PAC and the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
But the three Senators are being blocked by Democratic Leader Sen. Harry Reid.
On Friday evening, Lee asked for an amnesty vote. The bill should not be “funding the lawless actions of an out-of-control president,” Lee said. But Reid refused, citing the Senate’s complex debating rules.
In response, the mild-mannered Lee offered to support a time-saving debate procedure if Reid would allow the amnesty vote. But Reid still opposed the vote, and accepted a 30-hour delay before restarting the budget process.
Sessions and Lee may also be able to force a vote on whether there should be a vote about funding the amnesty. “It is a proxy vote — everybody knows that it is really about executive amnesty,” said a Hill aide.
Reid is trying to shield the 46 Democratic survivors of the November election from having their votes on amnesty reported to the public in 2016. Obama’s Nov. 21 amnesty is unpopular among many Democrats and swing-voters, and midterm voters ejected four Democratic Senators who had backed the Senate’s 2013 amnesty bill.
Cruz is trying to force a vote via a different “point of order” procedure. If successful, the Senators would be required to support or oppose a statement declaring Obama’s amnesty to be unconstitutional. That vote is expected Sunday.
“This procedural tool will ensure that every Senator will be on record regarding the constitutionality of President Obama’s illegal amnesty,” said his spokeswoman, Catherine Frazier.
GOP leader Mitch McConnell — and many other GOP Senators, such as New Hampshire’s Sen. Kellly Ayotte — are not supporting Lee, Sessions or Cruz. Instead, McConnell is backing Obama’s de-facto amnesty of 12 million migrants.
McConnell could bargain with Reid to get a vote on the amnesty, partly because the GOP’s base and the nation’s swing-voters have given McConnell a 54-vote majority in the Senate in 2015. As majority leader, McConnell controls many perks and the power to decide which issues can be debated on the floor.
“We have leverage,” said one aide.
But McConnell isn’t fighting the amnesty. He is telling GOP senators that if they agree to a vote on amnesty, they’ll also have to agree to a vote on a bipartisan amendment by GOP Sen. David Vitter and Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
The amendment would kill a bipartisan measure in the government bill that allows banks to fund “derivative” investing with funds from government-insured accounts.
That measure is unpopular among many Democratic senators, and some GOP senators — but it part of the leadership compromise that funds the Obama amnesty and many other leadership priorities.
But there’s also evidence that McConnell quietly supports Obama’s amnesty.
The amnesty reduces one major obstacle to the GOP leadership’s goal of adding huge numbers of foreign workers to the nation’s slack labor market. Since at least 2006, Democrats have said they will oppose business’ demand for extra foreign workers unless the foreign workers are allowed to vote in future elections.
Obama’s amnesty include work-permits and a fast-track to citizenship for 5 million migrants. He’s also telling an additional 7 million illegals, plus people who overstay their work-visas, that he won’t repatriate them unless they commit major crimes or pose a national security threat.
Top GOP leaders support Obama’s amnesty because it “opens the door to a lot of other items on the business community’s wish list,” the aide said.
Already, senior GOP House leaders, including Rep. Pete Sessions, Rep. Bob Goodlatte and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers have said they want to pass bills that would allow greater use of migrant workers in the economy.
For example, a bill favored by McMorris Rogers and drafted by Goodlatte, the chairman of the judiciary committee, would allow the employment of 750,000 foreign workers in the food industry, including orchards, crop fields, vineyards, dairy sheds, fruit-packing and meat-packing plants. Industry favors the plan, partly because it reduces the economic pressure to buy U.S.-made high-tech machinery.
Many Democratic leaders support the labor importation plans, including Sen. Patrick Leahy, especially if the imported workers are allow to gain citizenship after several years.
Business leaders also want sharply increase the inflow of university-trained workers for prestigious jobs sought by American graduates. The 2013 Senate immigration bill offered citizenship to an unlimited number of foreign-born graduates if they take jobs sought by American graduates, regardless of the Americans’ student debt.
Establishment Republicans have tried to downplay the de-facto national amnesty and portray it as a dispute over political process. If his Obama proceeds through Spring, it might mute press coverage of the bipartisan effort in 2015 to pass the foreign worker bills, and perhaps even keep the emotional issue out of the 2016 election.
Each year, roughly four million Americans enter the workforce, alongside roughly 600,000 working-age legal immigrants, 450,000 blue-collar guest-workers and roughly 200,000 university-trained guest workers.
The “super-elites in Washington and Wall Street dream of a world without borders, a paradise where’ things like laws and rules and national boundaries don’t get in the way,” Sessions said Friday.
“The only challenge these great global citizens face are these pesky people called voters, who cling to the old-fashioned idea of a nation as a home and a border as something real and worth protecting,” he said.
“These elites, you see, know better. If you’re worried about your jobs or wages, if you are concerned that the pace of immigration into your community is too fast and too large, if you feel like your needs aren’t being considered, well, you’re just a nativist you see,” he said.