Winning Over Republicans
Recently released reports indicate that the U.S. Senate appears to have crossed a major roadblock on the road to immigration reform. The agreement is seen as a major boost in an effort to gain more Republican support for the reform bill by increasing the amount of cash earmarked for beefing up border security. The increased funding is expected to pay for more border security agents, the installment of 700 miles of fence, and the operation of an aerial drone border security program. The move to include border security amendments comes on the heels of several Senators stating that they are much more likely to support an immigration reform bill, one that includes a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented aliens already in the country illegally, if it includes measures to strengthen the U.S. / Mexico border.
Less Optimism in the House
Despite the fact that politicians in the Senate are working hard to reach a viable compromise on the issue of immigration reform, Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner has said that an immigration bill has little to no chance of making it to the floor of the House unless it has the support of a majority of House Republicans. This means that even if the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, passes its own bill, the House won’t even vote on the bill unless it contains enough provisions that House Republicans can support.
House Bills v. Senate Bills
The reason why the House can kill a Senate bill if it doesn’t agree with its contents is because of how the legislative branch of government, also known as Congress, makes laws. For any bill to become a law, it must be voted on and passed by both chambers of Congress, the House and the Senate. Either chamber can draft a bill, but it must be passed in the other chamber before it can be signed into law. If both parties draft bills to deal with the same issues, which is still something that could happen in this battle over immigration reform, then the two bills have to be consolidated until it meets with the approval of both chambers.
Only after the House and the Senate agree on and vote to approve a bill can it be signed into law by the President – and President Obama has already stated that he will support a bipartisan immigration reform bill. Assuming the President did not want to sign a bill into law, the bill could still become law if it was sent back to Congress for another vote that would require a 2/3 Congressional majority. If 2/3rds of Congress support the bill, then it can become law even without the President’s approval.
Progress Slow but Steady
Even though the debates over immigration seem to be pushing immigration reform forward, there is no telling how long it could take for Congress to approve a full and final reform bill. Speaker Boehner has said in the past that he expects his chamber of Congress to reach an agreement on the issue by the end of 2013, which is good for the country as a whole, but seems like an eternity to the millions of individuals who would be affected either positively or negatively by the passage of the bill.