Just the Facts

Five Facts On The Need for Rules Reform: Immigration

By No Labels
November 26, 2018 | Blog

The Problem Solvers Caucus is pushing for their critical Break the Gridlock rule reforms to be implemented in the next Congress. To understand why this is so important, it is instructive to look back at a striking example from 2013 when the House’s outdated rules prevented the passage of a comprehensive immigration bill.

In April 2013 a bipartisan “gang of eight” senators agreed to a comprehensive overhaul of the country’s immigration system

The plan, championed by Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and John McCain (R-AZ), would have allocated billions in funding for border security and cleared a backlog of millions of immigrants trying to enter the country through legal channels.  In a divided government, with a Democratic Senate and presidency and Republican House, there was hope that this bipartisan proposal would be able to pass through all three branches of government.

Barack Obama was in favor of the plan

Democratic President Barack Obama announced his support for the plan shortly after it was announced.  Press Secretary Jay Carney stated, “The president is very pleased with the progress we’ve seen thus far…what we have seen is a remarkable, in Washington, level of consensus between and support for bipartisan and comprehensive immigration reform…And we remain cautiously optimistic that this progress will lead to legislation that can pass and the president can sign.”

In June 2013 the bill passed the Senate with an impressive 68-32 vote

The resounding victory was a testament to the bipartisan approach with which senators approached negotiations.  In the Democratic controlled Senate, 14 Republicans crossed the aisle to join all of their 54 Democratic partners in support of the bill.  President Obama praised its passage, stating “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.”  After passing the Senate and gaining the support of the presidency, the bill had only (seems word one is missing here) more hurdle, passage in the House.

Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner refused to give the bipartisan immigration bill a vote

Boehner was adamant that he would use his broad power as speaker to thwart the bill’s passage stating, “I’ve made it clear and I’ll make it clear again, the House does not intend to take up the Senate bill.” In response, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) criticized Boehner for standing by the Hastert Rule, an informal procedure in the House named after former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), which states that no bill that does not have the support of the majority of the majority will be brought to the floor by the speaker.  With few options to force a vote the bill died in the House, despite strong bipartisan support there as well.  Five years later, Congress has still been unsuccessful in passing broad reforms of our immigration system.

The failure of the 2013 immigration bill reveals why our country needs rules reforms

In our legislative system, if you want something done, it needs the support of the Senate, the House, and the presidency.  In a divided government it is almost certain that a bill that passes either the House or the Senate on a party line vote will die when it reaches the other chamber of Congress. In fact, in many cases, it doesn’t matter if the bill would have enough votes in each chamber to pass. Its success is entirely dependent on what the leadership in each chamber wants to do with it.  As we saw with immigration in 2013, despite bipartisan support in the Senate, the support of the presidency, and strong bipartisan backing in the House, the bill failed because the speaker wanted it to.  We need to allow these sorts of bipartisan, common-sense proposals to have a chance. That’s what the Problem Solvers Caucus Break the Gridlock proposal does.

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