This past weekend, Sen. Harry Reid (R-NV) told a rally of immigration activists that Congress would start work on immigration reform as soon as lawmakers returned from recess. In what appeared to be a turnabout this afternoon, Reid stated that immigration reform wouldn’t be on the Senate’s agenda this “work period,” or before Memorial Day. Many were as quick to assume that Reid’s comments spelled immediate doom for immigration reform as those who jumped to the conclusion that immigration was next on Congress’ docket based on the Majority Leader’s statements this weekend.
However, Reid’s Press Secretary Rodell Mollineau told Wonk Room in an email this afternoon that Reid was specifically referring to immigration reform not making it to the actual Senate floor for a vote before the end of May. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have been working on a bill that would first be introduced in the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It won’t be on the floor in the next seven weeks,” wrote Mollineau. “I can’t speak to the committee though.” The Reform Immigration for America Campaign also seemed confident that Reid’s remarks today had no effect on the prospects for immigration reform, indicating that the “path for comprehensive immigration reform remains unchanged.” Ali Noorani, Chair of the campaign, stated:
The legislative path forward to enactment of comprehensive immigration reform requires Senators Schumer and Graham to introduce their draft legislation by May 1st, allowing the Senate Judiciary Committee to “mark up” the legislation in May. This will clear the way for Senator Reid to take a bi-partisan bill to the Senate floor in the next Senate work period which begins after the Memorial Day recess.
Today’s remarks by Senator Reid about what items will be slated for action during the current work period referred to Senate floor action. Senator Reid cannot bring a bill to the floor until it is drafted, introduced, and marked up by the Senate Judiciary Committee. That is the urgent work that is required during the current work period.
We call on Senators Schumer and Graham to complete their bill so that the Senate can act.
Though Reid has by no means tabled immigration reform, getting a bill won’t be easy. The legislative calendar is packed and leaves little room for obstacles or distractions. Reid seems confident that he already has 56 votes, but he may be pressed to find the last few supporters he’ll need to get a piece of legislation past cloture. And while his statements seem to have left the prospects for reform unchanged, of more significance might be the fact that Graham was quoted today saying: “immigration is going nowhere this year.”