House Budget Committee Kills Immigration Reform Amendment


Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA)

With 33 working days left before Congress’ July 4 recess, one House Democrat tried out a new way to get Congressional members to bring a recorded vote on comprehensive immigration reform. During a House Budget Committee markup session of Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) Fiscal Year 2015 House Republican budget plan, Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) introduced the House Democrats’ version of a comprehensive immigration reform bill as an amendment. On a 21 to 15 party vote, House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan led the effort to kill the amendment.

Along with other House Democrats, Cárdenas remarked that the House Democrats’ immigration bill would “lower the deficit by more than $900 billion, while creating an additional 120,000 jobs each year.” His press release also stated, “This budget cripples our commitment to seniors, to middle class families, to kids in our schools and to the job creators who we depend on to build this nation. It also ignores the massive effect that comprehensive immigration reform could have on our economy.”

In his nine-minute rebuttal of Cárdenas’ amendment, Ryan derided the House Democrats’ immigration bill, insisting that the border needed to be secured first, that “laws aren’t being enforced,” and that immigration reform should be done in a “step-by-step” approach.

“Chairman [Bob] Goodlatte (R-VA) and Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) are already well on their way,” Ryan added. “They’re having lots of hearings … This is the Budget Committee. It’s not our committee’s jurisdiction to rewrite all of the immigration laws. It is those Committees’ jurisdictions and they’re well into doing that and the plan is to have a series of bills, not one big massive thousand-plus-page bill, but a series of bills … we think that’s a far better approach and that’s why I urge a ‘no’ vote on this amendment.”

Ryan appeared visibly irritated when Cárdenas’ noted, “This is the Committee that we should handle it in, Mr. Chairman. Just as you are using Medicare — rewriting Medicare — to balance the budget as well in this committee.”

Nine months ago, Ryan considered immigration reform to be good for economic growth. “Immigrants bring talent and hard work,” he said in a July 2013 National Journal interview. “They started a quarter of new businesses in 2011 alone. Immigrant-owned small businesses employ about 4.7 million people … [Low-skilled workers] bring labor to our economy so jobs can get done.”

The amendment, which would have funded immigration reform, was likely never going to be voted through: House Republican leaders oppose a comprehensive approach to immigration reform and the budget plan isn’t expected to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate anyway. Yet such a maneuver was more for messaging purposes anyway — House Democrats can now say that Republicans are once again shelving efforts to work on immigration reform. Not a single Republican has yet signed a discharge petition that would bring a floor vote to the immigration bill. Last week, House Democrats attempted a similar move when they introduced the immigration bill as the “previous question” to a national monuments bill — 227 House Republicans voted against the measure.

Ryan’s recorded “nay” vote could hurt his chances with Latino voters when he considers a presidential run in 2016, since 69 percent of Latino voters in a Pew Research survey said that “they or their family members have had some personal experience with the U.S. immigration system.” A July 2013 poll of 600 Latino voter respondents also found that 58 percent Latino voters held less favorable views of Republicans who blocked a path to citizenship.