Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., today said he supports using a discharge petition to get debate moving in the House on the Senate’s comprehensive amnesty bill (S.744). Schumer also suggested another idea for spurring movement on a bill - delaying implementation until after President Obama leaves office.
In a statement to the Capitol Hill newspaper Politico, Schumer said he supports an idea mentioned in E.J. Dionne’s column in The Washington Post. Dionne suggested that Tuesday’s House vote on the debt ceiling limit, in which almost all Democrats joined 28 Republicans on passage, should be a model for moving an immigration bill. Speaker Boehner has thus far prevented a comprehensive amnesty bill from getting floor debate, so the model would necessitate use of a discharge petition. Under House rules, a majority of the House (218 Members) can force floor consideration on a bill by signing such a petition.
“The idea that’s begun circulating, to do a discharge petition on immigration reform in the House, is a good one and I would urge House Democrats to take it up,” Schumer said. “It’s clear a majority of the House supports immigration reform. A minority faction has scared Republicans out of acting even though large parts of the Republican base, including business and religious groups, support the bill, making a discharge petition an appropriate remedy.”
Democrats first started talking about using a discharge petition last summer but never followed up because the Senate-passed comprehensive amnesty bill (S. 744) has never been transmitted to the House. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has not transmitted the bill because it can be “blue slipped” or deemed unconstitutional. That’s because it contains tax increases – something that must originate in the House under the Constitution. Rather than lose a technically active bill that could be used in conference committee, Reid has held back. But Reid’s failure to transmit S. 744 makes Schumer’s suggestion a moot point. However, House Democrats could mount a petition drive concerning H.R. 15, which contains all of S. 744's provisions except with respect to border security. On that issue, the bill is less stringent than S. 744.
On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” today Schumer said Democrats are not pushing immigration reform for political reasons. “If Democrats wanted political advantage, we’d pass a bill that was way to the left and beat up our Republican colleagues. In the Senate, as you know, with John McCain and Lindsey Graham and many others — Marco Rubio — we forged a coalition. So in the House there’s a lot of trouble because our tea party friends are very much against it, and while a lot of Republicans are the same as I believe they were on the debt, they want to vote no but hope yes, there’s a real chance, I still think, to get this done.”
Earlier in the week, Schumer floated a proposal to have implementation of an immigration bill delayed until the next president takes office in 2017. On MSNBC today, he said, “The number one reason they are saying they don’t want to vote for it is they believe Barack Obama will only enforce the parts of the law he likes – you know, legalization, path to citizenship — but not the enforcement, stopping illegal immigrants from crossing the border. So I said, look, if you feel that way, enact the bill now and then don’t have it take effect till 2017. It received a lot of support, even from some Republicans, who feel that this would take the number one objection away.”
Schumer’s proposal has caused Republicans to balk thus far. In response, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said, “He is almost admitting pass it because the president does become a problem. Pass it and have it go into effect after the president. Isn't part of his discussion he is acknowledging that is real problem here?”