Immigration Reform: Counting Votes
Debate on the proposed immigration reform bill has moved to the Senate floor, and many are keeping close watch on the votes. Over the weekend, a key Republican — the first outside of the bipartisan Group of Eight who drafted bill — came forward to endorse the project. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) told CBS' "Face the Nation" that, “This is a good, bipartisan solution, and I look forward to supporting it.”
In order to pass the Senate, the bill will likely need a super-majority of 60 votes, and is facing significant Republican opposition in some corners. It passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 13-5 vote, with three Republican Senators voting in favor of the legislation.
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is a key Republican supporter, and has said he will try to strengthen border security provisions during the Senate floor debate. Republicans want to give Congress some role in drafting how new border security provisions will play out.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants the bill to pass the Senate before the July 4 recess.
Newly Noted Provisions
A couple of stories recently highlighted some buried provisions in the bill with interesting ramifications: The Fresno Bee reports the 1,900 page bill includes a provision to add three new permanent federal judge positions to California's Eastern District. This District stretches from Bakersfield in the Central Valley all the way up to the Oregon border.
Senator Dianne Feinstein has long pushed for reinforcements for judges in this district. She's quoted in the Bee story, “over 25% of the Eastern District’s criminal caseload is immigration-related, and if comprehensive immigration reform is enacted, both civil and criminal caseloads are likely to grow.”
Eastern District judges now carry a caseload that is second highest in the nation and more than twice the national average. This burden is true in varying degrees for judges in all border states.
Another interesting and little-noticed provision: measures in both the House and Senate proposals that would funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into STEM education programs. TheChristian Science Monitor dug into this story, explaining that employers would pay a higher fee to sponsor high-skilled workers on H-1B visas, and the extra fees would go to a "STEM fund" to promote education in the U.S. in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
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