National Immigration Forum

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Legislative Update for October 1, 2009

October 01, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

Health Care: The Senate Finance Committee has been slogging through some 500 amendments on the health care bill.  As of this writing, there have been two amendments considered that relate to immigration.  Both would have required a government-issued photo ID in order to claim benefits under the bill.  Both were defeated on party-line votes.   The Finance Committee should be finished considering amendments by Friday.  Next, the bill will be “scored” by the Congressional Budget Office (which calculates the ultimate cost of the bill) and the Committee will take a final vote.  The Finance Committee bill will then be reconciled with another health care reform bill passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.  Majority Leader Reid, other Senate leadership, plus members of the Finance and HELP Committees oversee this process.  The reconciled version will go to the floor of the Senate for further amendment and debate.  It is expected that three weeks of Senate floor time will be devoted to debate on health care.


The House is now in the process of reconciling versions of a health reform bill passed by different committees.  Floor debate and a vote in the House may take place around the same time as in the Senate.


Appropriations:  The House and Senate bills containing appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security will imminently be considered by a conference committee to work out the differences between them. The conference committee should complete its work soon, and a final version of the bill will go back to the House and Senate for final approval.


Although September 30 is the end of the government’s fiscal year, most appropriations bills have not yet been completed by Congress.  On September 30, the Senate passed a “Continuing Appropriations Resolution” that will keep the government running until October 31.  The House passed the resolution on September 25.  The continuing resolution basically funds the government at the same level as fiscal year 2009.  It also temporarily extends several immigration-related provisions that were set to expire at the end of the fiscal year, such as E-Verify, the religious worker program, the investor visa program, and a program for foreign doctors serving in underserved areas.  (These programs will be extended for longer periods of time when Congress completes the regular appropriations bills.)

Comprehensive Immigration Reform: We are still waiting for Senator Schumer to draft a bill for introduction in his Immigration Subcommittee. Two hearings that had been scheduled in the Subcommittee—one on the subject of immigration, agriculture, and food security and one on the subject of the faith community’s perspective on immigration reform—have been postponed. As noted above, the Finance Committee is working through hundreds of amendments on the health care bill. This has required the Committee to be in session all day, every day for two weeks (so far). Senator Schumer sits on the Finance Committee. Until the Finance Committee has completed its work, it is unlikely that Senator Schumer will be able to focus much attention on comprehensive immigration reform.

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