Opinion: Morning Examiner

Morning Examiner: Amnesty activists push discharge petition for nonexistent bill

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Beltway Confidential,Conn Carroll,Morning Examiner,Immigration,Analysis

Amnesty activists frustrated by a lack of progress in the House are pushing Democrats to sign a discharge petition that would force Republicans to vote on the Senate immigration bill. Problem is, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., still hasn’t sent the bill to the House.

Amnesty on death watch
It has been over a month since the Senate voted 68 – 32 in favor of S. 744, the Schumer-Rubio “Gang of Eight” immigration bill that would give citizenship to illegal immigrants, and amnesty advocates fear they have lost their window to pass major legislation. “One of the biggest threats we face is that Republicans will slow walk immigration reform to death,” America’s Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry told The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent.

Stay on offense
To counter Republican inertia, Sharry, and a growing number of progressive bloggers, are urging Democrats to start a discharge petition that would force Republican leadership to put the Senate immigration bill on the House floor for an up-or-down vote. “It puts Democrats on offense, and it puts Republicans in purple districts on defense,” Sharry told Sargent. “It mobilizes the movement for immigration reform and leans into the legislative fight, rather than hoping John Boehner figures out a way forward.”

A supposed silent majority
Sharry and other amnesty advocates believe there are enough Republican votes for the Senate bill to pass the House, but only if the Senate bill can reach the House floor. “The theory is that there are at least some House Republicans for whom not acting on reform is politically problematic; filing a discharge petition pressures them to either sign on or go to their leadership and ask it to move forward with something,” Sharry said.

Where’s the bill?
Unfortunately for progressives, the discharge petition strategy is fatally flawed. For starters, a bill must first exist before a petition can be filed to discharge it to the House floor. And the Senate still has not bothered to send S. 744 to the House.

The main problem seems to be that S.744 raises revenue in a number of ways, and, according to the Constitution, bills that raise revenue can only begin in the House. So if Reid did send S. 744 over, House Republicans could easily call it to the floor for a quick death based on constitutional grounds alone.

What now?
House Democrats could introduce their own version over S. 744, but many amnesty activists don’t see the point of creating a brand new bill that has the Senate bill’s hated border security build-up. But other activists argue that unless a new bill is exactly the same as S. 744, the discharge petition will not exert any pressure on House Republicans to act. For now, House Democrats seem content to wait and see how the August recess plays out.

But waiting is a risky strategy too. If Republican town halls go smoothly this summer and Republicans do not feel any heat from their constituents on the issue, amnesty is all but guaranteed to die a slow death by irrelevance this fall.

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