Five Reasons Congress Can’t Blame The Calendar For Delaying Immigration Reform

CREDIT: Ben Margot/ AP

Immigration Reform Rallies California


Since the beginning of September the political punditry has been awash in stories
proclaiming the death of immigration reform. Naysayers like the (ubiquitous) “anonymous GOP aide” lament the shrinking calendar in October. Rep. Labrador (R-ID) opined that Syria could “delay a debate on immigration, potentially halting action until 2015.”

But if immigration reform fails in the House, it will not be due to a lack of time (or any other extraneous factors). It will be because House Leadership refused to bring it up for a vote. If they wanted to, they could bring the Senate-passed reform bill to a vote tomorrow and pass the bill on the same day.

Here are 5 reasons why lack of time is no excuse for House Republicans:

They’re wasting time on Obamacare repeal.
Today, the House voted to kill the Affordable Care Act for the 41st time (the fifth time this year alone). Rather than focus on immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship, something that 88 percent of Americans support, House Republicans have spent 15 percent of their time since 2011 on Obamacare repeal votes. These efforts have never had a chance of passing the Senate or being signed by the president. Instead of wasting time on purely symbolic votes, they should spend time on pro-growth, deficit-reducing immigration reform.

It only took 2 days to pass the most extreme anti-immigration bill ever.
The Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 would have turned all 11 million unauthorized immigrants into felons, created severe criminal penalties for anyone assisting unauthorized immigrants in any way, and super-charged an already harsh enforcement system. The House began debate on the bill on December 15, 2005, and passed it the very next day, on December 16, 2005. All in all there were only 13 days between when this complex and lengthy bill was introduced to when it passed the House.

House leaders set the very calendar they claim restricts them.
It is true that the House has far fewer work days than just about any other profession in the country…because they set their own calendars. It
is also true that they will only be in session for a short period — 9 legislative days — during the entire month of September after being on recess for the entire month of August. But again, that is an arbitrary limitation of their own doing. If they wanted, they could simply decide to work a little more and add additional legislative days to tackle immigration reform. In fact, Congress added extra days in part to pass their radical anti-immigration bill in 2005 after initially having no scheduled in-session days that December.

The DREAM Act was passed in just 1 day.
During the lame-duck session of the 111th Congress, the House considered and passed the entire DREAM Act in just one legislative day, on December 8, 2010.

The bill has enough votes to pass if it comes to a floor vote right now.
Speaker Boehner has said that he will follow the so-called ‘Hastert Rule’ on immigration; that is, he will not allow a vote on a bill until a majority of Republicans support the bill. But the Hastert Rule is not an actual rule, just a recent and unevenly applied custom. In this case, it is merely an excuse for inaction. What’s more, Boehner has already broken it 4 times this year: first on a bill to avert the Fiscal Cliff, second to pass aid for those affected by Superstorm Sandy, third on a bill to allow federal acquisition of historic sites, and finally, to pass the Violence Against Women Act.

Our guest bloggers are Marshall Fitz, Director of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress, and Philip E. Wolgin, Senior Immigration Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress.