Can a Dusty Legislative Gambit Revive Immigration Reform?

Progressive activists want to use a so-called discharge petition to force a vote

  • Share
  • Read Later
SAUL LOEB / AFP / Getty Images

Speaker of the House John Boehner and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi in Washington on May 15, 2013

Immigration reform is dying. The majority of voters want it. A broad bipartisan coalition pushed hard to enact it. The timing seemed propitious after the 2012 election. But all the economic arguments, policy papers and polling data marshaled by supporters cannot convince the Republicans who control the House. The best shot in a generation at rewriting U.S. immigration law looks destined to die with a whimper.

And yet there may still be a way to resuscitate reform efforts and force a vote on a path to citizenship. It involves a rarely used parliamentary tactic known as a discharge petition.

The legislative practice enables a simple majority of the House to force a vote on a bill, discharging the relevant committee from its responsibility to report it and circumventing the power of leadership, which controls the floor. Discharge petitions are rare. The tactic was successfully employed just 26 times between 1931 and 2002, when it was most recently leveraged to win a vote on the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance-reform bill. But a cadre of progressive activists, including powerful labor groups like the AFL-CIO and the pro-reform organization America’s Voice, have zeroed in on it as perhaps the best way to sidestep Speaker John Boehner‘s insistence that any immigration bill brought to the floor have the support of a majority of the GOP conference.

(MORE: Exclusive: RNC Ups Immigration-Reform Pressure on Congressional GOP — but Rejects Path to Citizenship)

“Certainly if the House fails to pass a bill with a path to citizenship and strong worker protections, then the discharge petition has to be an option for us to pursue,” says Tom Snyder, manager of the AFL-CIO citizenship campaign.

The argument that advocates should resort to this dusty legislative gambit is a sign of how sharply the odds of comprehensive reform have fallen. Once bullish, Democratic sources now admit the tapestry of forces aligned behind the Senate bill — including business lobbies, evangelicals, Silicon Valley donors and senior GOP strategists — won’t sway House Republicans. While House leaders have said several immigration proposals will receive individual votes this fall, a large faction of Republicans are loath to pass anything at all, lest Democrats use the ensuing conference committee as a vehicle to jam through provisions they oppose.

Hence the emergence of the discharge petition as an option. With Republicans content to let immigration languish, and a tangle of nasty budget disputes likely to overshadow it, a petition is one plausible mechanism to force the issue. “One of the biggest threats we face is that Republicans will slow-walk immigration reform to death,” Frank Sharry of America’s Voice told the Washington Post. “This is a way to counter that.”

To activate a petition, reform advocates would have to introduce a bill in the House. The legislation would then need to “ripen” for 30 legislative days — or until November, given Congress‘s light work schedule this fall. At that point, supporters would try to cobble together the 218 required signatures to force a vote, using a coalition composed of nearly all Democrats and perhaps up to 20 Republicans.

It is not clear whether the vehicle for the petition would be the bipartisan bill that passed in the Senate, which many Democrats consider flawed. House Democrats considered introducing the measure before scattering for August recess, and decided against it — a sign that many members remain cool to the notion of a parliamentary workaround.

(MORE: Immigration Debate Brings Strange Bedfellows — and New Hope — to Washington)

Others still feel the bipartisan group charged with devising a comprehensive House bill remains the best bet to thread an immigration overhaul through the chamber. Many Democrats have written off the group’s labors as a fool’s errand, since it has been reportedly on the verge of releasing its blueprint for six months now. Yet “it’s the best chance we have at getting a comprehensive House bill,” says a Democratic leadership aide. “Introducing the Senate bill could undermine that effort.”

In addition, Democrats want the depth of the GOP’s obstructionism to become clear to voters. “The discharge petition is a tool in the arsenal for the pro-reform side, but it is not ripe yet,” says another Democratic aide briefed on the issue. “The impasse has to be reached before a discharge petition gets traction.”

Historically, discharge petitions have been viewed as a rebuke to House leaders. It’s possible that even the handful of Republicans amenable to comprehensive immigration reform would balk at employing the tactic out of deference to Boehner. Jeff Denham, a California Republican who has said he would support a pathway to citizenship under certain terms, said in a statement to TIME that he “absolutely will not sign a discharge petition.”

Boehner has also been something of a sphinx about his own immigration convictions. Plenty of observers, Republican and Democrat alike, suspect he sides with the majority of GOP senior strategists who believe the party needs a bill to repair its relationship with the nation’s fastest-growing demographic. If that’s true, the argument goes, Boehner might be relieved for a path to passage to materialize without his overt blessing. At the same time, it’s hard to see how Republicans would reap much credit.

It may seem hard to fathom that the momentum to overhaul the broken immigration system has been snuffed out so swiftly. But Democrats who sounded triumphant just weeks ago now privately concede the effort is dying, and a legislative Hail Mary may be the last shot to revive it.

PHOTOS: The Ground Zero of Immigration: El Paso by Reed Young

42 comments
KatyPerez
KatyPerez

According to baggers  the only solution to the immigration mess is keep kicking the can down the road for ever. Just because the undocumented are not lily white. I am sure if they were white and blue eyed reform would have passed a long time ago. So useless GOPers really offer no solution to this problem, just more of the same that we all know it doesn't work. No wonder the GOP is called the party of stupid !!!

armandocdll81
armandocdll81 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@KatyPerez According to Third World apologists intoxicated by Aztlán pipe dreams, countries like Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala (just to name three) can keep kicking the can down the road forever - looking askance at their staggering birthrates, moribund economies and corrupt elites - as long as Uncle Sam keeps granting amnesty to millions and millions of their destitute citizens.  The US  admits more legal immigrants each year than any nation on earth. We are not obligated to act as a safety valve for the developing world's incompetence and gross neglect. 

NoGig1
NoGig1 like.author.displayName 1 Like

No one should be deceived. This is legislation written by corporate lobbyists before wrapping as "immigration reform". It has little to do with human compassion and everything to do with corporate profits and GREED. 
 
This is legislation that embraces massive expansion of foreign "guest workers" programs and increased immigration -- even as our nation struggles with 15% real unemployment, falling wages and escalating poverty.   This is legislation that enriches corporations and elites while leaving the nation's middle-class and poor to confront DECADES of increased unemployment and declining wages. FACTS confirmed by the CBO.

Our country DESERVES corporations aligned with the interests of this nation and citizens.  And SHOULD NOT TOLERATE corporations actively subverting the truth, media and democracy to undermine national and citizen interests.

It is time for for hard questions about corporations that refuse taxes and hiring of citizens -- yet spending billions to pervert government to their ends.   And for citizens to reclaim their government.

DaveFrancis
DaveFrancis like.author.displayName 1 Like

Americans have many times when we've faced enormous odds, told to sit down and shut up or have been locked out. Grass-root organizations gotten this far because of Patriots like you? Although the Leftists assault on the reputation of the middle-of-the-road Tea Party members, using the immense empowerment of the Democratic media in sustaining their reporting that the Tea Party is crumbling, when in actual fact the numbers of new subscribers is growing off the charts.


Right now, the other side is fundamentally trying to change America by granting amnesty to 33 million illegals. America has never been so divided after the Civil War. The only difference this is a verbal war, not lock and load. We are mindful that these people will be very gratified to the Democrats and a large group of Republican elitists, that their is something beneficial in Amnesty for both parties; votes and cheap labor. Special Interest also have powerful influence on Washington, especially the corruption that emanates in lucrative deals. However, they are not fooling the American people, who realize that their taxes will sky rocket if either the Senate immigration bill, or the Republican amendment is ratified. Both sides seem to have forgotten that 57 million jobless, or part time citizens/legal resident workers who should be first priority.
  

It takes an army of Conservatives to fight the dirty tactics of both parties, the Obama scandals, so I won't sugar-coat this. Things are grim specifically under the Obama administration and we desperately need your participation. If the TEA PARTY not fighting for you, who will? You can't count on your elected officials, whether its Washington or the individual state representatives. And, with Washington on the verge of granting amnesty to 33 million illegals aliens we must bring the power of THE PEOPLE. Every American who is aware of Town Hall debates should speak their minds to their Senators and House Representatives before their August recess is over in two weeks. It is inevitable this must be done. also promote it through the Social networks as Facebook and twitter. Since the major immigration reform of 1986 The People have been lied to, through many sources; the newspapers, polls and reports. Just like President Obama promising that Obamacare will benefit everybody, when in actual fact you will be paying for the Freeloaders" which will come in the way of more taxes. Understandably we should pay for those in poverty, our own people, but not for the worlds illegal immigrants.


The farmers still want cheap labor for the fields, but was you aware that WE PAY FOR THE HEALTH CARE, THE SCHOOLS FOR THEIR CHILDREN of the guest workers and the whole people who arrive here are unregulated, except for very few. The agricultural Industry turn a blind eye to the rules and regulations. Whatever the outcome of either the Senate bill or House bill, the only losers are the taxpayers.


Look, illegals are contributing to violent crime in America...gang membership is exploding...Mexican drug cartels are spreading in our communities...unrivaled numbers of drunken drivers...identity theft by illegals is at epidemic levels...they're filing fraudulent tax returns, especially child credits, stealing billions from our government...and now they want our jobs. Many things have happened during Obama's presidency that have stopped us cold. Never in our history has a president blatantly abused power to bully and oppress American citizens.


This is not about a persons skin color, religion or even their political attitude, its about an invasion from every corner of the world. The last generation of LEGAL immigrants should be first in every respect, not those who entered the country illegally from any impoverished nation? The Obama administration is using race baiting, to divide us in order to suppress the Conservative agenda.


Between that abuse of power, the high crimes, corruption and lies, America is hanging by a thread. I've been watching the fervor over impeachment reach a fever pitch. Now another nail is about to be put in Obama's coffin. The Obama administration is changing the laws, to suit their assault on our Constitutional rights. Since the Obama's presidency the government has grown out of proportion to its original requirements. Obama has not hesitated to go beyond democratic, legal and constitutional means to advance his radical agenda.


Think about it: Benghazi—before, during and after, ObamaCare, gun-grabbing, data mining, drones, supporting Muslim Brotherhood terrorists, invasions of privacy, wiretapping the press, poison pen executive orders, De-facto amnesty for illegals, power grabs by DHS, IRS and Justice Department.


Grass-Roots doing everything in our power to stop the House from voting in favor of amnesty—but we can't do it without the American people shouting out in unison.


Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) just predicted 40 to 50 House Republicans will support immigration reform but he's not spilling names. That means the Tea Party has to go to Washington in force, meet with every member of the House and Senate, talk to their aides, staff and confidants to get the inside track.

57.5 Million Working-Age Americans Not Working in Second Quarter of 2013 New analysis from the Center for Immigration Studies has determined that 57.5 million native-born Americans between the ages of 16 and 65 were not working during the second quarter of 2013. That figure is up 17 million from the second quarter of 2000. Proponents of the Schumer-Obama amnesty bill (S.744), however, claim that there are not enough workers currently living in the United States.

Numbersusa.com and Americanpatrol. com and Judicialwatch. org are just a few of the sites, with a window into the truth of what is the corruption spreading through our federal and state agencies like a decaying corpse.

joaquin
joaquin like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

This could be one of the most misinformed, agenda-driven stories I've read in ten years---and that's saying something. Author's second sentence: "Voters  want it." No---cheap labor businesses, the Hispanic lobby, congressional turncoats are the driving force behind the effort to pass a massive amnesty and legalize (and grant instant work authorization) to 11 million illegal immigrants.


Here's a poll that shows that when voting Americans are made aware of how devastating amnesty/legalization would be on their chances to get a job or keep the one they might have, they overwhelmingly reject amnesty in all its forms:

https://www.numbersusa.com/content/nusablog/beckr/august-15-2013/poll-few-voters-agree-biz-lobby-pres-obama-more-immigrant-workers.html

shoeman
shoeman

BS you do not know what amnesty means. For you dumb idiots. It means you go get a pass on the crime. But if you pay a fine and all back taxes, that is not a free ride. I bet many undocumented pay a lot more in taxes. than the big mouths crying no amnesty. 

Ale
Ale

NOBODY approves of illegal immigration. The debate is about how to solve the problem and what is or is not Amnesty. If Amnesty is what happened in 1986, then S.744 is clearly NOT.
Ah...And such debate we already won. The only reason S.744 is not yet Law is the "majority of the majority" rule in the House. A dirty trick your ilk will not be able to abuse much longer.
 

wigglwagon
wigglwagon

@Ale 

Lots of them came for jobs.  If they are allowed to KEEP THE JOBS, it is amnesty no matter how you try to spin it.


Lots of them came for the freebies.  If they are allowed to KEEP THE FREEBIES, it is amnesty no matter how you try to spin it.

Ale
Ale

Just as in 2006 and 2007, advocates of Immigration reform are simply focusing in the wrong issue to debate and that is why they are losing. It is not reform itself. The debate for that has already been won. The votes are there overwhelmingly in both chambers and public opinion. The problem is Congressional rules and the legislative process itself. A few guys have absurd authority to hold and even to block the process from flowing through. Not because they represent more Americans but because the positions they hold. The "majority of the majority" rule (House)and the 60 vote Filibuster(Senate) are absurd. This has nothing to do with Immigration or any other issue or either party or chamber or person.. It is wrong always and regardless of any of that.
What % percentage of majority we need to pass a law comfortably? 90%?
Then we complain about "Gridlock"?  It is our fault!
We are allowing it!
We need to reform the PROCESS OF REFORMING ANYTHING, before we attempt the specifics of any issue.

Ale
Ale

For Congress to work we need to do away with absurd procedural "rules" such the "Hastert"(majority of the majority) rule in the House and the Filibuster/Cloture/60 votes rule in the Senate. They give a few guys too much power to block what they don't want, as if their views had more weight than the views of the rest of us have

armandocdll81
armandocdll81 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@Ale Tell that to the California voters who passed Propositions 187 and 8.

Ale
Ale

Those were allowed to be voted on and they passed. They were later blocked (From being implemented, not from being voted on) by the courts on grounds of Unconstitutionality, if my memory is not failing me.

This is a completely different story. S.744 is being blocked by Boehner and his accomplices FROM BEING VOTED ON, simply because the majority of their party does not want it.This is wrong. It is unrelated to Founders, Constitution and Supreme Court. It is a casual, recent rule. Not law at all.

The only majority that should count is the HOUSE majority. WE HAVE THAT!. So let's vote and pass the bill.

Then if you want to challenge the Law in court...Well....we will see what the courts rule.

Ale
Ale

@wigglwagon @Ale 

I already have such votes. Further I already have the votes to change SEVERAL THINGS. But dirty little tricks under the disguise of Congressional rules keep me from doing so. It is only a matter of time until they start to fall like domino pieces.

And who is the LITTLE MAN in this scenario?  118 House Representatives out of 435?...Because they happen to belong to the same party?

I am laughing!

wigglwagon
wigglwagon

@Ale @wigglwagon 

My only assumption is that you are not satisfied with what the current leadership has done.  I do not care if you belong to the Party of Abstention.  If you want things CHANGED as you said, you will need to get enough votes to change leadership.


AND, you may call it common sense but myself and lots of other people do not.  We believe that the filibuster does serve a very important purpose.  The LITTLE MAN should be allowed to say his piece even if he is not in agreement with the majority. 

Ale
Ale

@wigglwagon @Ale 

The Hastert rule is a recent invention.Nothing to change because it does not trace back to any legislative power. . It is only used because most Americans do not know about it.

"Haven' t you"?  You seem to be assuming I am a Democrat and you are wrong.

Both rules are obscenely absurd regardless of party, Chamber or position. It is a matter of common sense, not party affiliation. 

wigglwagon
wigglwagon like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@Ale 

If those things are so important to you, elect a Democratic majority to the House and change the rules.  


You have control of the Senate.  Why haven't you changed the filibuster rules?

Ale
Ale like.author.displayName 1 Like

Why would anybody agreeing with reform including a Path to Citizenship NOT sign a discharge petition?

Would that not be defeating to the whole purpose of having a Congress and being a Congressperson?

Isn't what The Congressperson thinks is best for the country the number one priority?

Why are Boehner 's feelings more important than everything else

armandocdll81
armandocdll81 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Time's oh-so-noble editorial sages have never met an unauthorized foreign national they can't resist fetishizing or a law designed to regulate incoming migration that doesn't send them into an apoplectic tizzy. 

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

It's all about the base. The Teatards have been indoctrinated in the belief that any legislation that will satisfy the Latino community is AMNESTY! And they will throw all House Republicans who vote for AMNESTY out on their ears. Otherwise, the GOP Representatives are safe in their gerrymandered districts, and leadership has no leverage to prevent the demise of the national party.

"I passed the night wretchedly. Sometimes my pulse beat so quickly and hardly that I felt the palpitation of every artery; at others, I nearly sank to the ground through languor and extreme weakness. Mingled with this horror, I felt the bitterness of disappointment; dreams that had been my food and pleasant rest for so long a space were now become a hell to me; and the change was so rapid, the overthrow so complete!"

-- Mary Shelly

armandocdll81
armandocdll81 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@shepherdwong As a Latino parent and a registered democrat I resist and resent your implication that all Hispanics favor the subversion of our immigration system and the flooding of US cities and towns with an endless supply of economic refugees when so many in our communities are unemployed or barely surviving on the meager incomes we do have. Please take your patronizing generalities and toxic disregard for immigrants who play by the rules elsewhere. 

Ale
Ale

@armandocdll81 @shepherdwong 

Our immigration is not subverted. It is simply dysfunctional and it has been from day one. We need another one FROM SCRATCH

Ale
Ale

@armandocdll81 @Ale @wigglwagon @shepherdwong 

No. They are high enough. Further, I would take a small reduction in exchange for some streamlining and functionality. A point system could be a tool to accomplish those goals.

Ale
Ale

@wigglwagon @Ale @armandocdll81 @shepherdwong 

The dysfunctionality is not in the numbers themselves but rather :

1) How those numbers are spread among the same class of people as a piece of cake but virtually excludes all others with no hope FOREVER

2) How cumbersome and overly complex the system is; that hard to implement and monitor

3) How the Law gives NO hope to so many(virtually all) that they will ever able to make it legally

wigglwagon
wigglwagon like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@Ale @armandocdll81 @shepherdwong 

Our "dysfunctional" immigration system legally admits over a million immigrants every year.  How many will it have to admit every year for you to consider it functional?

MrObvious
MrObvious

@armandocdll81 @shepherdwong 

Armando - maybe you don't like words like Teatards, but tell me if sheherdwong is wrong?

The tea party is throwing sand in the machinery by yelling AMNESTY. In other words they offer no specific solution. Your sore feelings aside as a person that play by the rules - what's your solution? What will satisfy your sensibility so we finally have a comprehensive immigration reform?

armandocdll81
armandocdll81 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@Ale @MrObvious @armandocdll81 @shepherdwong For good reason - America doesn't need more unskilled labor than it already has. We are overpopulated and under-employed with diminishing fresh water and ever-expanding carbon emissions and landfills. Allowing hundreds of millions of destitute foreign nationals  to come here and plant roots will destroy us. If living in overcrowded mega-cities teeming with largely uneducated, illiterates is your idea of paradise why don't you just move to India and be done with it?

wigglwagon
wigglwagon like.author.displayName 1 Like

@MrObvious @armandocdll81 @shepherdwong 

Obviously, you think it is just the tea party holding up another AMNESTY.  You need to get off the couch and MEET the millions of  blue collar used to be  Democrats who are 'TEA' totally opposed to another AMNESTY as passed by the Senate.

Ale
Ale

@MrObvious @armandocdll81 @shepherdwong 

It is impossible to play by the rules when the rules exclude you from playing the game in the first place. And 99.999999% are effectively excluded .

jmac
jmac like.author.displayName 1 Like

The Chamber of Commerce wants it.  "Colonel Sanders needs these guys, says Haley Barbour, referring to Latinos in Mississippi who work at processing plants."  

Business wants it.  It's not just  diverse votes Republicans need to be careful of, it's business.  The Chamber doesn't have to keep throwing  money and support when House Republicans refuse to vote for what it wants.  In the last two elections, the Chamber gave $69.5 million to candidates - all but two of them Republicans.  They gave Rand Paul a million.  Maybe not next time.  Boehner knows where his party's bread is buttered, and what better way than a discharge petition to spread the blame around.  

PulSamsaraXi
PulSamsaraXi like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

"The majority of voters want it."


The majority want REFORM !  Not the supposed 'reform' being offered by the 'reform' advocates.

The majority want the lawlessness to STOP ! 

armandocdll81
armandocdll81 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

@PulSamsaraXi Precisely. We all know that the polling questions were slanted and failed to mention that legalizing the current crop of unauthorized aliens will open the doors to millions and millions of unskilled indigents and skilled competitors. The Senate bill does nothing to ensure that those who employ illegal aliens are punished. 

Ale
Ale

@armandocdll81 @PulSamsaraXi 

It does everything that can be done in three fronts: Border, worksite and trucking of Visa Over stays

Ale
Ale

@wigglwagon @Ale @armandocdll81 @PulSamsaraXi 

No quarrel with the first Paragraph.

The second one makes no sense as. deportation is more expensive to taxpayers than anything else.

The third one is a ridiculous analogy. Working is working, regardless of immigration status. Earning money through work is not robbing a bank.Not even close

wigglwagon
wigglwagon like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@Ale @armandocdll81 @PulSamsaraXi

Any proposed reform that does not include mandatory jail terms for employers of illegal aliens will be a complete failure just as the '86 Amnesty was a failure.


Every illegal alien who comes in contact with law enforcement in any way should have to await their day in immigration court in their own country.  Every day an illegal is allowed to work is another day that taxpayers are forced to support a law abiding family.


Bank robbers are not allowed to hold onto the cash until their day in court.  Why are illegal aliens allowed to keep on working the illegally obtained jobs until their day in immigration court?

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

Has there ever been a Speaker this weak? Boehner is simply incapable of moving anything through the House. Except, of course, meaningless repeals of ACA.


deconstructiva
deconstructiva

Thanks, Alex, though it's too bad you didn't invoke Legally Blonde 2 to bring up the discharge petition idea. Rachel Maddow did.... 

http://video.msnbc.msn.com/rachel-maddow/52710076#52710076

As for Boehner, your line "Boehner has also been something of a sphinx about his own immigration convictions" needs to be rewritten as "Boehner has also been something of a sphincter about his own immigration convictions." You're welcome. Why is he stonewalling when it's blinding obvious that the R's need to embrace some immigration reform or they will alienate the Latino demographics beyond hope? Once this huge voting block helps flip Texas blue down the road, the national game is over for the GOP. The Plains and the South minus Texas and Florida will not be enough to keep them in power.

armandocdll81
armandocdll81 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@deconstructiva Latinos will never ever vote Republican in a million years.  Everyone knows this - especially the drooling triumvirate of Pelosi, Lofgren and Guitierrez.

KatyPerez
KatyPerez

@armandocdll81 @deconstructiva But repukes still have so called "latinos"like you Armandito. Who feel superior than other Latinos  and see them, especially the undocumented with disdain and disgust. We just have to read your comments to know who you really are. And you are right, the majority of Latinos prefer a bullet in their heads before they vote for the KKK/GOP  or side with an Uncle Tomas like you !!!

Ale
Ale

@armandocdll81 @deconstructiva 

By the time newly legalized reach Citizenship (and only about a million of them will) the entire electorate will realign one way or the other so this is a moot issue. Silly for either party to even consider it.

forgottenlord
forgottenlord like.author.displayName 1 Like

@deconstructiva 

Because he knows that the tea party is ready to rebel against him and are just looking for an excuse to turf him as Speaker.  Also, there's a slim possibility that he sees himself as the barricade against total Tea Party insanity - trying to forge a path between the insane and the sane so that when the real serious issues come up (eg: budget battle, debt ceiling, etc), he can be there to protect America - blah blah blah.  If you follow that logic, you actually get to a point where he doesn't see this as Boehner survives or the Republicans survive, he sees this as the Republican party is screwed either way and either he's there to lead them or he's not.  Either way, still an ego trip.