National Immigration Forum

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What’s the Pitch?

September 08, 2010 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

the pitch


Congress returns next week after a long break.  There will be about four weeks of legislative activity before they leave town for campaigning.  Or rather, it might be more accurate to say there will be about 3 ½ weeks of partisan posturing and, oh, maybe a day or two of legislative activity.


There is a long list of unfinished business. 


First off, the government runs out of money at the end of the month, the end of the government’s fiscal year.  In theory, Congress passes a series of 12 appropriations bills to fund the various agencies of the government for the coming fiscal year, which begins October first.  As you can see from this list, so far Congress has completed zero out of the 12 appropriations bills.  Some haven’t even been introduced.  The House has passed two; the Senate zero.


No one believes that Congress will complete its work on the spending bills.  Instead, there will likely be one or more “continuing resolutions,” keeping the government running on the same funding basis as the current fiscal year until, after the election, there will likely be some variation of one giant messy omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government for the coming year.


In addition to spending bills, President Obama is urging Congress to pass a series of proposals to provide further stimulus to the economy—to include additional spending on infrastructure projects and tax cuts and tax breaks for businesses.  Legislation to provide some boost to the economy will likely be a priority for Democrats going in to the elections.  Republicans, meanwhile, will continue to try to block everything, even though they are normally champions of tax breaks.


Aside from the spending bills, there are critical policy reforms still sitting on the Congressional agenda—among them, comprehensive immigration reform and energy and climate legislation.


You might recall that this summer’s Congressional break was interrupted when the House and Senate were called back to session in order to vote on, among other things, a $600 million package of additional enforcement resources to be deployed on the southwest border—never mind that people who actually live on the border say they feel safe in their communities and that crime is down in Arizona, where much of the current border hysteria originates. 


When the bill passed in the Senate, Senator Schumer said that with border security taken care of, we can move on to comprehensive immigration reform.


This bill is enormously important because it will clear the path for the bipartisan discussions we need to have about our immigration system.”


We have yet to see a comprehensive reform bill.  We have just passed the one-year anniversary of the date (Labor Day, 2009) when Senator Schumer said he thought “we’ll have a good bill.”


A new poll released yesterday by the Washington Post and ABC News indicates that “among those most likely to vote this fall, the Republican advantage [is] 53 percent to the Democrats' 40 percent.”  The key is “among those most likely to vote.” 


In the Spanish-language press, Latino voters and immigrants are often being reminded that “La Promesa de Obama” on immigration reform is unfulfilled.  While the President is, at least to some extent, being unfairly blamed for the failure of Congress to do its job (as Andrea Nill at the Center for American Progress argues in this blog post), it is not hard to imagine that part of the population that is not in the category of “those most likely to vote” are Latino voters discouraged by the lack of progress on immigration reform. 


Democrats could mitigate some of this problem by showing some effort to push immigration reform by, for example, introducing a bill.  Until there is some sign that Senator Schumer and his fellow Democrats are really ready to move on to comprehensive immigration reform, it’s hard to figure what will be the pitch to move Latino voters into the category of “likely to vote” in the fall.


Image by Flickr user MissChatter.

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