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“Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill makes it through Senate, off to the House

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

On Thursday, June 27, the Senate voted to pass the comprehensive so-called “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill (S. 744) by a vote of 68- 32. A cloture vote earlier in the afternoon cleared the way for the up-and-down vote by the same margin.

President Obama issued a statement almost immediately. “Today, with a strong bipartisan vote, the United States Senate delivered for the American people, bringing us a critical step closer to fixing our broken immigration system once and for all,” he said.

“The bipartisan bill that passed today was a compromise. By definition, nobody got everything they wanted. Not Democrats. Not Republicans. Not me. But the Senate bill is consistent with the key principles for commonsense reform that I—and many others—have repeatedly laid out.

“If enacted, the Senate bill would establish the most aggressive border security plan in our history. It would offer a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million individuals who are in this country illegally—a pathway that includes passing a background check, learning English, paying taxes and a penalty, and then going to the back of the line behind everyone who’s playing by the rules and trying to come here legally. It would modernize the legal immigration system so that it once again reflects our values as a nation and addresses the urgent needs of our time. And it would provide a big boost to our recovery, by shrinking our deficits and growing our economy.

Now that Senate had done its job, the President said it’s up to the House to do the same. That, however, may be an uphill battle. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) reiterated on June 27 that immigration reform must “be grounded in real border security,” and have the support of the Republican majority to pass in the House.

“The House is not going to take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes,” Boehner said. “We’re going to do our own bill, through regular order, and it’ll be legislation that reflects the will of our majority and the will of the American people. For any legislation—including a conference report—to pass the House, it’s going to have to be a bill that has the support of a majority of our members,” a reference to members of the Republican caucus. This means that any House bill will have to meet the “Hastert rule,” which says the majority of the party in control of the House must back a bill for it to receive a vote by the full chamber.

Perhaps in recognition of this, President Obama urged: “Now is the time when opponents will try their hardest to pull this bipartisan effort apart so they can stop commonsense reform from becoming a reality. We cannot let that happen.”