The Senate this week will determine the fate of comprehensive immigration reform when it votes on a key border security amendment followed by a likely final vote on passage of the entire “Gang of Eight” bipartisan plan.
The House, meanwhile, will vote on a two bills aimed at expanding drilling for oil and natural gas within the United States.
The Senate is expected to vote Monday night on a measure written by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., that aims to bolster border security additions to the Gang of Eight bill, The Corder-Hoeven provision calls for adding 20,000 border patrol agents at the southern border as well as an extra 350 miles of fencing and the implementation of a system at all air and seaports to track people who overstay their visas. The provision would require a mandatory e-verify system to prevent employers from hiring illegal immigrants.
The amendment is expected to help attract critical Republican support for the bill, which Democrats are seeking in order to send an immigration reform plan to the House with the backing of at least 70 Senators.
“We’re very, very close to 70 votes,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Fox News Sunday. “The Hoeven-Corker amendment I think gets us over the top.”
But the amendment has been criticized by some conservatives and conservative groups including the Heritage Foundation because it does not mandate implementation of the new border security provisions as a condition for legalizing or providing green cards for those now living here illegally.
“In other words, the amendment would allow millions of illegal immigrants to receive amnesty now, and then maybe we will get to securing the border somewhere down the road,” an entry the conservative Heritage Foundation Foundry blog said after the provision was announced.
The amendment is expected to pass and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he is planning for a final vote by Thursday on the overall bill, which was authored by four Democrats and four Republicans known as the Gang of Eight.
The bill will then head for the House, but don’t expect any action next week or anytime soon.
Instead, the GOP-led House will be focusing on increasing the nation’s energy independence by making it easier to drill for oil and natural gas.
The House plans to vote on a bill that would allow energy companies to drill within the offshore reserves near the Mexican border. Currently there is a moratorium on drilling in the region. The bill cleared committee along a mainly party line vote and will likely pass the House by a similar margin. It’s estimated the region holds up to 172 million barrels of oil and 304 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
The House will also vote on the Offshore Energy and Jobs Act, which calls for expanding drilling for oil within areas of the outer continental shelf on both U.S coasts which are now off-limits including Virginia, South Carolina and California. While this legislation is expected to pass the House, Democrats in the Senate are unlikely to take up the measure.
In the House, the Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing about the status of the Internal Revenue Service’s review of the agency’s practice of targeting conservative groups who sought federal tax exempts status.