Gang of Ocho still stuck on guest worker program

Politics,Beltway Confidential,Conn Carroll

Two weeks ago when newspapers across the country were hailing a “breakthrough” on a guest worker program between the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce, I noted that a close examination of the  “principles” released  by the Chamber showed that they were little more than a re-statement of the vague terms originally agreed to by the Senate Gang of Ocho earlier this year. In other words, no real progress had been made on the issue.

Today, Politico confirms that is exactly the case. Kate Nocera and Manu Raju report:

Forget the pathway to citizenship. The real hang-up in the high-stakes immigration talks is how senators will satisfy Big Business and powerful labor unions over proposals to attract lower-skilled foreign workers into the country. … That’s the biggest impediment right now,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told POLITICO Tuesday when asked about the labor-business provisions. … Graham and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are taking point in cutting a deal with top labor and business officials. … Graham and Schumer met privately in December with Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO, and Tom Donohue, head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And negotiations between the interest groups picked up until recently when the senators and their senior aides directly stepped into the talks in order to bring the sides closer to agreeing on legislative language the Senate group will ultimately produce.

According to the Department of Labor, there are currently 12 million unemployed legal Americans currently looking for work. Despite that, Graham told Politico, “We don’t have enough labor in the out years to meet our economic growth needs… We’re going to bring workers into the country to keep the economy going. I think every union member wants a vibrant economy.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who is not part of the Gang of Ocho, isn’t buying the Graham-Chamber case for guest workers: “What I absolutely do not want to see is immigration legislation which would bring low-wage workers into the United States that would take jobs away from American workers. Don’t tell me that we don’t have people who can make beds in the United States, who live in the U.S., who don’t want those jobs.”

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