POLITICS

Sen. Lee releases piecemeal immigration bills to rival Sen. Rubio’s Gang of Eight framework

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke

After walking away from the Gang of Eight comprehensive immigration reform talks, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, released two bills that seek to expand legal immigration and keep temporary workers on the job.

“Our immigrations system isn’t just one big problem; it presents dozens of challenges,” Lee, a Senate Judiciary Committee member, said in a statement. “The good news is that we have bipartisan support for how to fix many of the problems.  I don’t believe we should delay progress in these areas just because we have differences in a few others.”

Lee withdrew from the Gang of Eight talks that Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., ultimately embraced. “The senator does not see how it’s possible, under this framework, to implement it in a way that doesn’t give incremental benefits to those [illegal immigrants] who are here,” spokesman Brian Phillips told The Washington Examiner today.

This piecemeal approach turns the tables on President Obama by using favorite fiscal cliff negotiation tactic against him. Obama is now in the position of demanding the kind of controversial, comprehensive bill on immigration that he rejected during the tax fight. “Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away,” he said during the State of the Union address last night.

That’s the opposite of how he approached the tax increase fight. “Let’s begin our work with where we agree,” Obama said when demanding Republicans extend the Bush tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans, a move that would effectively guarantee that taxes would rise on the wealthy by to whatever rate Democrats preferred.”If we can get a few House Republicans to agree as well, I’ll sign this bill as soon as the House sends it my way.”

Along the same lines, Lee introduced a bill that was co-sponsored in the 112th by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the Gang of Eight pushing for a comprehensive immigration bill.   “The Dairy and Sheep H2A (DASH) Act would allow dairy workers, sheepherders, and goat herders to apply for year-round positions through the H2A visa program,” Lee’s office explains. He also proposed eliminated the per country caps on visas for skilled workers.

House Democrats have already admitted they’re using the idea of increasing the number of skilled visas distributed as a bargaining chip to get amnesty.

“If we got the skilled labor part done first, do you think we would ever come behind it and finish the job?” Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., said during a recent House Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration reform. “I think it has to be a comprehensive approach or we’ll never get to the hard part.”


 

 

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